In a 6-3 vote on Feb. 7, the House Administration Committee voted on party lines to advance HR634, the “Election Assistance Commission Termination Act,” introduced by Rep. Gregg Deal (R, MS-03).
The bill will terminate the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), a bipartisan group established to help states adhere to new requirements put in place by the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA). That law was passed to correct problems and issues identified by the messy and litigious 2000 Presidential Election.
Per their website, the commission’s duties are numerous, but the EAC is primarily responsible for testing and certifying voting machines for the 40 states that opt to adhere to EAC standards. (States can, but do not have to, adopt their standards.) They also monitor voting software and look for recurring problems to fix and train state officials to manage information technology problems that come with digital voting machines.
Of note is that the EAC is explicitly responsible for identifying and correcting systemic risks and vulnerabilities to voting machines, including the threat posed by hacking. A 2014 report from the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) warned of an “impending crisis” that should be of “grave concern” to all Americans as 43 states continued to use voting machines that were over a decade old.
House Republicans have tried to end the Commission before but failed, according to the Fiscal Times.
Republicans argue the agency’s duties can return to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), the agency that originally oversaw them until the 2000 Presidential Election fiasco. They say eliminating the agency will save $33 million over five years, which is almost as much as it cost the NYPD to guard Trump Tower for five weeks.
In a January op-ed, Chair of EAC commissioners Thomas Hicks says the agency’s core mission is “to give all registered voters access to a trustworthy and secure voting system based on the best available research and data. Since its inception, the EAC has ably met that challenge, and in the months leading up to the 2018 election we look forward to working with Congress to build on that success.”