Republicans on the Committee on House Administration have voted to eliminate the independent commission that was established to address election problems after the contested 2000 presidential contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission, established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002, has disbursed more than $3 billion in “requirements” payments to states to update voting machines and enhance election administration. But the commission has seen that funding significantly decline in recent years.
In a full committee hearing Wednesday, Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) called the EAC a “bloated bureaucracy that mismanaged taxpayer dollars,” and said it has far outlived its initial three-year mandate. The best course the committee could take, according to Harper, was to “dissolve the agency, end its wasteful spending and transfer its remaining beneficial functions to another location.”
Under the proposed legislation terminating the EAC, those duties would be given to the Federal Election Commission.
… Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas) called for the EAC’s continued operations, citing recent improvements, including the hiring of a chief financial officer who could help get the agency’s accounts in better shape.
“No one could deny the EAC needs to do more,” said Gonzalez, but he added that the commission has been hampered by a staff shortage. He also called on the committee to improve EAC operations through legislation, rather than dismantling it outright.
Fellow committee Democrat Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) echoed Gonzalez, saying the continuation of the EAC is “about having a system in place that would make sure that all the Americans who want to vote have a chance to do that.”
Committee Democrats “acknowledge the shortcomings of the EAC,” wrote Kyle Anderson, spokesman for the Democratic staff of the Committee on House Administration, in an email.
“But Democrats don’t believe that cost-cutting should be done at the expense of efforts to ensure that eligible voters have every opportunity to participate in our election system,” he added.
The EAC’s Democratic support also extends beyond the committee. In April, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) testified before the Elections subcommittee that the agency should continue.
“Abolishing the EAC would be an invitation, in my opinion, to repeat the mistakes that blemished our democracy in 2000,” Hoyer said. “The debacle of the 2000 presidential election embarrassed the United States and showed just how flawed election systems were.”