Today the House Administration Committee voted 6-3 to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission, which was created via the Help Americans Vote Act. The Help Americans Vote Act was signed into law in 2002 by President Bush in response to the barrage of duplicate and null ballots that came out of Florida during the 2000 elections, and was created in order to simplify voting ballots and encourage states and other municipalities to upgrade their voting machines and methods.
The Election Assistance Commission, or EAC, was created specifically to help guide local election groups in creating effective and clear voting methods. Its standards were voluntary, but gave accreditation to voting machines and methods. The House Administration Committee, on top of voting to eliminate the EAC, also voted to eliminate the public-financing system for presidential elections, a system that has been in a place since the 1970s.
Committee chair Gregg Harper (R-MS), who voted for the elimination of the commission, said “It is my firm belief that the EAC has outlived its usefulness and purpose”, and stood by his bill that moved the power of the EAC to the Federal Election Commission, which manages the financing of federal elections.
But the vote hasn’t gone without backlash. Thirty-eight groups, including Common Cause and the NAACP, has lambasted the vote, saying that the elimination of the EAC would compromise a fair, ethical, and accessible system of elections. The Brennon Center of Justice adds “The EAC is the only federal agency which has as its central mission the improvement of election administration, and it undertakes essential activities that no other institution is equipped to address,” which questions the ability of the Federal Election Commission to overtake the role the EAC used to fulfill.
The vote has also been made among the accusations that Russian hackers have interfered with the 2016 elections, infiltrating more than 20 states. Furthermore, the Presidential Commission of Election Administration set up by President Obama in 2014 and the Brennan Center both reported that voting machines in 42 states are at least a decade old and are at risk of failing. The EAC was in charge of getting those voting machines replaced and up to modern standards.
The EAC itself has not been immune to criticism, and has a history of a lack of members, and was subsequently paralyzed by inaction. Even further, its director approved several proof-of-citizenship laws from several states. While the laws were eventually deemed unconstitutional and struck down, the goal of the EAC was muddled even further.
While the EAC has floundered in the past couple of years, its purpose is still useful, especially in an environment where voter laws are passed, further restricting people’s rights. President Trump has vowed to help reduce voter fraud, and has launched an investigation of the assumed millions of illegal voters, so the House Administration Committee’s votes to eliminate a commission that’s dedicated to weeding out voting fraud sends a conflicting message.