Republican lawmakers say it’s time to do away with the federal commission that has given states election-related advice for the past years. The lawmakers say the Election Assistance Commission has outlived its usefulness. “We do not need a separate federal agency for the small number of useful functions it performs,’’ said Republican Rep. Gregg Harper of Mississippi, who introduced a bill last year to shut down the commission. “They can be accomplished more efficiently within another agency.” The EAC drew new attention after the Nov. 6 election.
Created in 2004, the bipartisan independent group has offered states technical advice in running elections and has overseen millions in federal funds that states received to upgrade voting machines and buy new equipment.
But the EAC has operated without commissioners for nearly a year and has been run by an acting executive director since May.
“The agency is paralyzed,’’ said Hans von Spakovsky, a senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Civil rights and voting rights groups counter that the EAC is still needed to address problems such as the long lines and malfunctioning machines some voters encountered this election.
“All of these issues still go to the heart of our democracy,” said Barbara Arnwine, executive director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The group led a national effort to minimize problems at the polls this year.
“Its goals and the purposes for which it was constituted are definitely still needed,” Arnwine said of the EAC. “However, the institution we have right now, is not what we need.’’
Arnwine, who served on the EAC’s advisory board, said the commission needs more resources. She praised the group’s previous work on setting standards for voting machines.
“It can’t continue to lurch around like it’s doing — like a half-dead institution,” she said.
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