February 08, 2017

Vote to End EAC Jeopardizes Vote from Abroad

February 8, 2017 — Yesterday the House Administration Committee voted to terminate the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The EAC is the only federal agency devoted exclusively to improving election administration on a bi-partisan basis. The EAC is the agency responsible for overseeing the vote from abroad process for all overseas Americans, to make sure our access to ballots and the handling by elections officials is consistently fair and transparent.

Save the Election Assistance Commission

The House Committee on House Administration voted 6-3, along party lines, in favor of H.R. 634, the Election Assistance Commission Termination Act, sponsored by the committee chairman, Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), which would shut down the federal agency that helps states regulate voting systems and administer election standards. Created after the chaotic presidential election of 2000, the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) secures our voting process and infrastructure, providing support that local election officials rely on. Now, the House Committee has decided that we no longer need it.

In 2014, President Obama’s Presidential Commission on Election Administration tasked the EAC with modernizing our severely outdated voting machines with more efficient, secure technology, and developing new standards, last updated in 2007. This legislation will leave local election officials without support just as machines around the country are reaching end of life. Terminating the EAC would abruptly end its important work, putting our democratic process at a higher risk for voting irregularities, machine failures, and hacks. This is a stunning move by Congress, especially after reported attempts to hack into state voter registration databases and destabilize our entire presidential election.

The bipartisan commission, co-chaired by the general counsels of the Obama and Romney 2012 campaigns, wrote in their report that: “Without a fully functioning EAC to adopt new standards, many new technologies that might better serve local election administrators are not being brought to the marketplace.”

The League of Women Voters Released a statement opposing this move: "League Opposes End to Voting Agency Passed by House Panel":

The EAC does invaluable work to improve our nation’s election system on a voluntary, non-regulatory basis. The bi-partisan organization seeks to ensure the efficacy, reliability, and trustworthiness of our nation’s election systems by conducting research, collecting data, and sharing information among elected officials, the public, and interested organizations. It was set up by the Help America Vote Act, which was adopted after the controversial presidential election in 2000.

Help America Vote Act 2002 (HAVA) mandated that overseas absentee ballots be tabulated separately from domestic absentee ballots, ensuring overseas Americans can see that their votes count and are counted. The EAC’s tabulation of overseas absentee ballots provides elected officials and candidates with a clearer picture of their overseas American constituents. Through reporting and data analysis, the EAC was established with the goal of improving the uneven state compliance with federal regulations of voting law. 

Support for the EAC and it's impact on the vote from abroad and overseas Americans is among Democrats Abroad's top priorities.

TechCrunch published an article "House moves to eliminate commission overseeing voting system security" questioning the intelligence of eliminating the commission at this particular time:

...it seems like extraordinarily bad timing to kill the EAC immediately after an election marred by allegations of fake voting, hacks and other improprieties. The Department of Homeland Security just last month even designated election systems as “critical infrastructure” and will be helping secure them...

In the article, EAC Chair Thomas Hicks is quoted saying, "the EAC is the only federal agency bridging the gap between federal guidance and the needs of state and local election officials.