At precisely the time when we are seeing multiple threats take shape against U.S. election systems, whether in the form of hacking by foreign or domestic agents or of newly created constraints that limit access to the polls in one way or another, the one agency established to protect the integrity of those same systems is once again – this time seriously – in danger.
An appropriations bill recently introduced in the 2017 budget process would eliminate funding for the Commission and give it 60 days to terminate itself. This is in keeping with a bill introduced earlier this year to close down the EAC, strongly opposed by many voting advocates including the League of Women Voters. According to the author of a Democratic amendment to the recent appropriations bill, closing down the Commission would mark a step backward for the country.
Since the Commission was created in 2002, AARO has worked with it and looked to it for expertise. For a number of years, we have advocated continued funding of the EAC, recognizing the crucial importance of the testing it oversees, the guidelines it puts forward, the analysis of voting systems it provides, and the authority with which it monitors processes around the country – including for overseas voting – and promotes better practices.
The EAC has no real power, as such, but it serves as an authoritative expert and a conscience, at a time when both are desperately needed.
David Becker, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Center for Election Innovation & Research and formerly Director of the elections program at The Pew Charitable Trusts, says the agency has been “extremely active” on recent threats and if it is eliminated, “The happiest people out there would be the hackers.”
We strongly urge our members to write or call their Congresspersons in defense of continued funding of the Election Assistance Commission and recognition of the key role it plays – and must continue to play – in ensuring the protection and integrity of election systems around the country. Representatives’ contact information can be found at www.house.gov