House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in opposition to Republican efforts to terminate the Election Assistance Commission, the agency Congress created to help ensure fair elections. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“The right to vote is at the foundation of our democracy—and so it is extremely disappointing that this bill would undermine our nation’s ability to protect that right.
“I rise in strong opposition to this bill, which would cut funding for fair and accessible elections. Eliminating funding for the Election Assistance Commission would harm the integrity of our elections in 2012, and for years to come. Voters deserve assurance that their votes will count.
“In 2000, our democracy was blemished by our flawed election systems. Regardless of how we felt about the outcome of that election, Republicans and Democrats agreed that the federal government had a duty to improve election systems so that every qualified citizen’s vote counts: to provide states the financial and informational resources to upgrade their voting and registration systems, train their poll workers, and improve access for disabled voters.
“The result was the bipartisan Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, which I was proud to help write. It passed the House by 357 votes to 48 and passed the Senate with only two votes against. Before HAVA, the federal government guaranteed voting rights, but it did little to ensure, on the ‘nuts and bolts’ level, that our precious voting rights are translated into a vote that counts.
“As part of its effort toward that end, HAVA created the bipartisan Election Assistance Commission, whose job is to administer grants to states, provide states with ongoing guidance and best practices in the area of voting and voter registration, and ensure full access for disabled voters. The EAC has created a comprehensive program to test state voting systems for accuracy—and use of this program has been shown to save our states millions of dollars and up to twelve months of testing time. The EAC also develops best practices to ensure that our troops’ votes are counted fairly.
“The EAC is not perfect, and I believe that we should work to reform it. But to abolish it altogether would be to demonstrate that Congress has failed to learn from the past—and to open ourselves to the possibility of another disputed election. With partisan polarization at historic highs and close elections always possible, the last thing we need are unreliable voting systems, which lead the losing camp to question the integrity of an election.
“I certainly believe that there is unnecessary spending to be cut in the federal budget. But bills like this are what happens when one party decides to cut spending simply for the sake of cutting spending. I can think of few more essential tasks than ensuring that the people’s representatives are elected fairly. I urge my colleagues to oppose this bill.”