House Republicans are taking aim at a small federal agency that helps provide election oversight and guidance, saying its functions are no longer necessary. A spending bill from the House Appropriations Committee unveiled Thursday would give the Election Assistance Commission 60 days to terminate itself. The small agency was created after the tightly contested 2000 presidential election. It has an annual budget of about $10 million and had just 31 employees on its rolls as of March. The agency writes election management guidelines and develops specifications for testing and certifying voting systems, among other tasks. … Democrats introduced an amendment at the markup to save the agency, arguing that its role was more important than ever given the attempts by the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 election. Republicans rejected that line of thinking, noting the Homeland Security Department, and not EAC, has jurisdiction over election-related cybersecurity issues.
Brenda Bowser Soder, an EAC spokeswoman, said the agency has been “active in the conversation around cybersecurity for a long time.” EAC, she explained, provides cybersecurity experts with information on election processes. She added the agency helps to increase voting access, boost security and update election equipment.
Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., the author of the EAC amendment, said the proposal would mark a step backward for the country. Eliminating the agency “would be dramatically out of step with the federal government’s work to improve the nation’s election systems,” Quigley said. “No other federal agency has the capacity, willingness or expertise to effectively absorb these functions.”
… Richard Hasen, a law professor at University of California, Irvine, founding co-editor of the Election Law Journal and author of the Election Law Blog, said it would be a “tremendous mistake” to assume other agencies would take on EAC’s duties. The role of the FEC, for example, has become much more complicated in recent years while also getting increasingly deadlocked by political leadership. Hasen noted the fight to eliminate the EAC is not a new one, as House Republicans view the agency as federal infringement on an inherently state and local function.
“Even though it has no real power,” Hasen said, alluding to EAC’s voluntary guidance, Republicans “say it’s too powerful.”