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Congress: Do Not Eliminate the Election Assistance Commission

On February 7, 2017, the Committee on House Administration voted to advance H.R. 634. Numerous organizations, including the Brennan Center, urged the Committee to reject the legislation.

Published: February 7, 2017

Congress is consid­er­ing H.R. 634, the Elec­tion Assist­ance Commis­sion (EAC) Termin­a­tion Act, which would elim­in­ate the EAC — the only federal agency charged with improv­ing voting systems and help­ing states with other crit­ical func­tions of elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion.

The EAC was created by the Help Amer­ica Vote Act of 2002, in part as a response to voting equip­ment and elec­tion fail­ures that led to contro­ver­sial outcome in Bush v. Gore.

The Commis­sion, which is designed to work in a bipar­tisan manner with four commis­sion­ers — two Demo­crats and two Repub­lic­ans — performs a number of vital elec­tion func­tions at the national level. Among other duties, the EAC:

  • Sets national stand­ards for new voting systems.
  • Tracks and corrects prob­lems with those systems.
  • Conducts research into elec­tion manage­ment and improve­ment.
  • Collects and dissem­in­ates crit­ical elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion data.
  • Provides a clear­ing­house of inform­a­tion for local elec­tion offi­cials, and promotes access­ible voting for Amer­ic­ans with disab­il­it­ies.
  • Main­tains the national mail voter regis­tra­tion form.

The EAC’s role setting stand­ards for voting tech­no­logy is partic­u­larly import­ant in 2017.

Forty-seven states rely on EAC stand­ards and test­ing for voting equip­ment. A 2014 report by the Pres­id­en­tial Commis­sion on Elec­tion Admin­is­tra­tion iden­ti­fied an “impend­ing crisis” in voting tech­no­logy. A 2015 Bren­nan Center study detailed this crisis, find­ing the vast major­ity of voting machines in use today are close to or exceed their lifespans. In fact, 42 states used machines that were at least a decade old in the 2016 elec­tion. New equip­ment is needed to avoid increased machine fail­ures, and secur­ity and reli­ab­il­ity flaws. These issues entered the spot­light in 2016 when, accord­ing to cred­ible reports, Russian cyber­crim­in­als attemp­ted to access state voter regis­tra­tion systems.

Numer­ous organ­iz­a­tions, includ­ing the Bren­nan Center, urged the Commit­tee on House Admin­is­tra­tion to reject the legis­la­tion. On Febru­ary 7, 2017, the Commit­tee voted to advance H.R. 634. A number of civic groups and govern­ment offi­cials issued state­ments in response to the Commit­tee’s action. Read the letters and state­ments below.

Letters Support­ing EAC