Editorials: Republicans Want To Defund The Commission That Fights Voting Machine Hacking | Steny Hoyer/HuffPost

This past weekend, hackers gathered in Las Vegas with a simple mission: break into America’s electronic voting machines and take control. Within minutes, some had already succeeded – but that’s a good thing. These hackers were part of a workshop held to identify vulnerabilities so they can be fixed well before any Americans cast actual votes next election. This exercise underscores the very real danger posed by outdated and insecure voting-machine software – as well as the important mission our government must continue undertaking to close these vulnerabilities and safeguard our elections. However, in their FY2018 funding proposal, Republicans are going after the small but highly successful agency that protects the integrity of our voting systems: the Election Assistance Commission. In June, House Republicans included a provision in their Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill that would abolish the Election Assistance Commission.

Editorials: Election hacking requires better vigilance | Matthew V. Masterson/Washington Times

This week, hackers from across the globe are gathering in Las Vegas at the annual DEF CON conference for an exercise ripped straight from news headlines — trying to hack U.S. election systems. It’s a unique exercise that has raised a lot of eyebrows in the election community. For me, it’s yet another moment to focus on the topic of election system security and the need for constant vigilance. For all of the hype surrounding the DEF CON exercise and beyond the 2016 election system hacking attempts shaping news headlines these days, attempts to hack into government-controlled systems isn’t exactly a new concept or exercise. There were 10 federal agency cyber breaches in 2014, including targets such as the White House, State Department, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In fiscal 2016, OPM found federal agencies faced 31,000 “cyber incidents” that led to “compromise of information or system functionality.”

National: House Republicans Want to Eliminate Election Assistance Commission | Government Executive

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.

National: The House wants to put America’s independent election watchdog out of business | Mic

At the same moment watchdogs are calling out a new White House panel’s massive request for voters’ personal data, Congress is trying to slash funding for a small bipartisan agency that’s supposed to improve the way elections run. The notation, buried at the bottom of page 69 of the House Financial Services Appropriation Bill for spending in Fiscal Year 2018, would yank the entire $4 million budget of the Election Assistance Commission. The EAC was created in 2002 thanks to the Help America Vote Act, which Congress passed “to make sweeping reforms to the nation’s voting process.” The commission’s job includes certifying the hardware and software used to conduct elections.

National: House Democrat seeks to restore funding to the Election Assistance Commission | The Hill

Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) introduced an amendment to the appropriations bill on Thursday to fund the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The EAC provides services to state elections officials, including playing a role in election cybersecurity. The EAC is currently slated to be entirely defunded by the end of 2018. “In order to prevent future attacks against our democratic process, we must harden our defenses,” Quigley said in remarks launching his amendment. “Eliminating the EAC, the federal government’s only independent direct line of communication to state and local election officials, would be dramatically out of step with the federal government’s work to improve election systems and provide states with the support they need to hold accurate and secure elections.”

Editorials: EAC’s 2016 survey provides a deep dive into a wealth of election, voting data | Sean Greene/The Hill

I love baseball. As a researcher, I am fascinated by the endless stream of statistics it generates, data that provides a detailed picture of the rhythms and pace of any given game or season. Coaches, players and general managers use the data to tweak everything from how to set their infield defense to planning team finances and roster decisions years down the road. And fans use the data in their own way to better understand and enjoy the game. This is exactly how I’d like Congress, election administrators and the American people to view the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s 2016 Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS), the most comprehensive nationwide data about election administration in the United States. It’s a treasure trove of data collected to paint a picture of the administration of the 2016 Federal Election and to give us indicators about ways we can improve election administration and voter experience. And it allows anyone to use the data to dive into what they think is important to better understand how elections work in our country.

Voting Blogs: EAC Commissioners Divided on Authority Over Proof of Citizenship Documents | Brennan Center for Justice

Officials on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission announced in a federal court filing today that they’re split along partisan lines over whether the panel’s executive director acted within his authority last year when he allowed three states to include documentary proof of citizenship requirements on federal voter registration forms. The disagreement means that the September 2016 injunction against the burdensome registration requirements stills stands. The memo, filed by commissioners in federal district court today, discussed Executive Director Brian Newby’s decision to grant the federal form requests at issue in the case. Two commissioners, Chair Matthew Masterson and Christy McCormick, both Republicans, found that Newby had the authority to do so. One, Thomas Hicks, a Democrat, found that he did not and wrote separately to that effect.

National: Trump Says Voter Fraud Is a Huge Problem. A Top Republican Election Official Disagrees | Time

As voters began selecting their next president, Donald Trump repeatedly warned that Election 2016 was “rigged.” Millions of people, Trump said, are registered in two states and may therefore vote twice. Others would steal identities from the dead. Voting machines would malfunction. In January, less than a week into his presidency, Trump told lawmakers that between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes caused him to lose the popular vote — though not the election itself — to Democrat Hillary Clinton. He told senators a tale about ineligible voters being bussed into New Hampshire from Massachusetts. Trump then tapped Vice President Mike Pence to lead an investigation into voter fraud. … That’s not how Matthew Masterson sees it. Masterson, the newly minted Republican chairman of the bipartisan U.S. Election Assistance Commission, ranks Election 2016 among the most trouble-free elections ever.

Voting Blogs: Election Assistance Commission Offers Election Technology Training Course | EAC Blog

Whether they think they are, want to be, or were trained to be, the Election Official of 2017 is also an Information Technology (IT) Manager. IT management requires a unique set of attitudes, knowledge and skills, all of which are necessary to plan, direct and control contemporary elections. The Election Assistance Commission recognizes this challenge and now has resources available for local election administrators wishing to hone their IT management skills. After the adoption of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002, election officials were forced, in a matter of just a few years, to move from managing voluminous paper poll books, paper voter registration application forms and (often) paper ballots to managing electronic statewide voter registration databases, e-poll books and either DRE or optical scan voting systems with their accompanying computer-based election management and ballot building systems. The ramifications of the shift from managing paper to managing computer based systems cannot be underestimated. In less than a decade, election administration posed new demands on its practitioners, who were asked to understand and successfully implement increasingly complex technologies. A few election officials with sufficient resources were able to hire skilled computer technicians and engineers to augment their staff. The vast majority, however, were forced to become more dependent upon systems vendors to integrate new technology into their local election environment while trying as best they could to effectively manage this new paradigm.

Voting Blogs: New EAC Chair Matt Masterson on Priorities in 2017 and Beyond | Election Academy

Last week, Matt Masterson became the new Chair of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. On Friday, Chairman Masterson posted a blog entry at the EAC website (with a similar but shorter op-ed in the Hill) that lays out the priorities for the EAC in 2017 and beyond:

Today I was elected Chairman of the Election Assistance Commission. This is an honor and responsibility I do not take lightly. In their respective terms as Chair, both Commissioners McCormick and Hicks propelled the EAC towards fulfilling our mission set forth by HAVA, to better serve election officials and American voters. I hope to build on the momentum they created and push the EAC even further. In my year as Chairman, much of the EAC’s work will be influenced by two key things. First, the lessons learned and feedback from election officials as a result of the 2016 Presidential Election. The EAC’s #BeReady16 campaign received a great deal of praise from election officials from around the country and I want to build off that success with a new effort, #GamePlan17. The focus of #GamePlan17 will be to provide election officials with tangible planning strategies and information for the 2018 mid-term election and then to help turn those planning strategies into concrete actions to be taken heading into 2018. The goal being to help election officials protect their most valuable resource… time.

Editorials: Want Secure Elections? Then Maybe Don’t Cut Security Funding | Dan S. Wallach and Justin Talbot-Zorn/WIRED

Last Week, the House Administration Committee voted on party lines to defund the Election Administration Commission, the leading federal agency responsible for helping states run smooth elections and preventing hacking. Republicans justified the move as a way to save money and shrink the size and scope of government: “We don’t need fluff,” said Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), the committee chairman, explaining his vote. But the move wasn’t just Capitol Hill budget politics as usual. It’s evidence of a radical disconnect between a handful of influential House Republicans and nearly everyone else—including the scientific community, leading cybersecurity experts, and even the White House—who contend that voting vulnerabilities are a serious problem. On the morning of the election, Donald Trump called Fox News to give his views on the state of voting in the United States: “There’s something really nice about the old paper ballot system—you don’t worry about hacking.” Trump wasn’t going rogue. While his “voter fraud” comments have gotten serious attention of late, he has also, like many conservatives, expressed concern about the vulnerability of voting systems.

National: Senators ask feds for ‘full account’ of work to secure election from cyber threats | The Hill

Democratic senators are asking a federal agency that helps certify and secure voting systems for a “full account” of its work to secure the 2016 election from Russian hackers. The senators, led by Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), also want the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to detail cybersecurity challenges facing state and local officials as they look to safeguard future elections. The intelligence community concluded in an unclassified report released in January that Russia engaged in a cyber and disinformation campaign during the election to undermine U.S. democracy and damage Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Intelligence officials determined that “Russian intelligence accessed elements of multiple state or local electoral boards,” though they found no systems involved in voting tallying were breached.

National: The Election Assistance Commission – The Federal Voting Agency Republicans Want to Kill | The Atlantic

Every odd-numbered year since 2011, Republicans in the House have tried to kill the Election Assistance Commission—the tiny federal agency responsible for helping states improve their voting systems. None of their previous efforts made it very far, and with Barack Obama in the White House, the 15-year-old commission had little to fear. This year, the same fight has taken on much greater urgency. Congressional committees are investigating whether a foreign power tried to hack the U.S. election. The new president is convinced that widespread fraud cost him millions of votes. And with an ally in the Oval Office, House Republicans have begun moving faster than ever before to eliminate an agency they say is unnecessary and wastes taxpayer money. “I’m more worried this time,” said Wendy Weiser, the director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “There’s a belief that this has more legs than it did in the past.” The House Administration Committee has a new chairman, Representative Gregg Harper of Mississippi, who has led the opposition to the EAC, and last week the panel made his bill ending the agency the first piece of legislation it approved in the new Congress. “It is my firm belief that the EAC has outlived its usefulness and purpose,” Harper said shortly before the committee’s six Republicans voted down objections from its three Democrats to approve the legislation.

Voting Blogs: H.R. 634 puts EAC on the block, again – Despite bill, bipartisan support remains | electionlineWeekly

Like Sisyphus and his rock, Mississippi Congressman Gregg Harper has once again introduced a resolution to dissolve the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). Under H.R. 634, the EAC would terminate 60-days after the enactment of the resolution. Some functions of the Commission would transfer to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The bill was introduced on Jan. 24 and approved by a 6-3 party line vote in the House Administration Committee. In a statement, Harper says that the existence of the EAC is not necessary to conduct federal elections is a “waste of taxpayer funds.” Despite Harper’s insistence that the Commission has run its course of usefulness, bipartisan support for the EAC remains. “In the days leading up to the mark-up and in the days since, we’ve receive notes from election officials and voters across the nation thanking us for our work and validating the important role we play,” said EAC Chairman Thomas Hicks. “We’ve also received widespread, bipartisan support from advocacy groups within the beltway and beyond. Anyone with questions about our value should speak directly with the election officials and voters we serve.”

Editorials: Elections need oversight, not GOP deceit | NJ.com

Russian hackers tried to destabilize our election, and even if the actual damage is undetermined, it is a national security crisis that requires all patriotic hands on deck. The president says there were 3 to 5 million fraudulent votes in the last election, and even if it is an assertion that makes strangers back away warily, he has the power to set up a commission to look into it. And all this happened 21/2 years after a commission warned of “an impending crisis” in voting technology. So exactly what sense does it make for a congressional committee to terminate the only federal agency that is responsible for testing and certifying our voting system? Pause here for cognitive dissonance.

National: House committee votes to close Election Assistance Commission | USA Today

While President Trump is promising to launch an investigation into his belief that millions of illegal ballots were cast in 2016, the Republican-led House Administration Committee voted Tuesday to shut down the federal agency set up to help states improve their election systems. Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., chairman of the House Administration Committee, said the Election Assistance Commission has “outlived” his usefulness. … “This is the time when we should be focusing on strengthening” the EAC, said Pennsylvania Rep. Robert Brady, the top Democrat on the committee. Brady argued the EAC helps states run fair, accurate and efficient elections. He said the agency provided key support to states in the last election.

Editorials: Why We Need the Election Assistance Commission | Matthew Weil/Bipartisan Policy Center

On Tuesday, the House Administration Committee considered a bill to eliminate the only federal agency tasked with improving the voting process for all Americans. If this seems like a strange response to an election marked by allegations of voter fraud, voter suppression, and election rigging—from both sides of the political aisle—you’re not wrong. While there are legitimate concerns about the role of the federal government in elections, eliminating the United States Election Assistance Commission will lead to less secure and more costly elections in the future. And all Americans will lose. Regularly over the last decade, lawmakers have argued that the EAC intrudes on state and local election administrators who bear the responsibility for actually running American elections, and that it costs too much for the services it provides. But there are real and vital reasons for the EAC to exist.

National: House committee votes to eliminate Election Assistance Commission | The Guardian

A Republican-led House committee voted on Tuesday to eliminate an independent election commission charged with helping states improve their voting systems as Donald Trump erroneously claims widespread voter fraud cost him the popular vote. The party-line vote came less than two days after the US president vowed to set up a White House commission helmed by the vice-president, Mike Pence, to pursue his accusations of election fraud. … The bill was opposed by committee Democrats and voting rights groups, who argued that the federal agency played a vital role in protecting elections from hacking and other types of interference. “At a time when the vast majority of the country’s voting machines are outdated and in need of replacement, and after an election in which foreign criminals already tried to hack state voter registration systems, eliminating the EAC poses a risky and irresponsible threat to our election infrastructure,” said Wendy Weiser, the democracy program director at the Brennan Center for Justice.

National: Republicans vote to scrap Election Assistance Commission | International Business Times

In spite of President Donald Trump’s unverified claims that millions of people voted illegally in the US election, a House committee has voted to eliminate an independent election commission. The Republican-led House Administration Committee voted 6-3 along party lines to scrap the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) on Tuesday (7 February) – the only federal body aimed at ensuring voting machines cannot be hacked. Though Trump’s assertions have been widely discredited, public advocacy groups have raised serious concerns about the decision because of the body’s importance. It was created in the aftermath of the 2000 election and the Florida recount controversy which decided the race between George W Bush and Al Gore. Since then, the EAC has grown to even greater significance as many of the country’s voting machines have become outdated, with the Brennan Center for Justice saying the situation is an “impending crisis”. They were one of 38 bodies to denounce the vote to scrap the EAC, stating it puts America’s democracy at risk.

National: As Trump fears fraud, GOP votes to kill Election Assistance Commission | Associated Press

A House committee voted on Tuesday to eliminate an independent election commission charged with helping states improve their voting systems as President Donald Trump erroneously claims widespread voter fraud cost him the popular vote. The party-line vote came less than two days after Trump vowed to set up a White House commission helmed by Vice President Mike Pence to pursue his accusations of election fraud. “We’re going to look at it very, very carefully,” Trump said of voter fraud in an interview with Fox News that aired Sunday. “It has to do with the registration, and when you look at the registration and you see dead people that have voted.” Reports that Trump told congressional leaders in a meeting last month that 3 to 5 million ballots were cast illegally during the 2016 race were met with discomfort on Capitol Hill. While top Republicans have refused to disavow his charges of election fraud, they haven’t pushed for action on the issue, which remains a low priority for congressional leadership.

National: 38 Reform Groups Oppose Efforts by House Administration Committee to Terminate Presidential Public Financing & EAC | YubaNet

In a letter sent today to members of the House Administration Committee, a group of 38 organizations and individuals with expertise in governance issues strongly opposed bills being considered tomorrow by the committee to terminate the Presidential Election Campaign Fund and the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). (See below for a full list of the signers of the letter.) The group of organizations and individuals strongly oppose HR 133, a bill to terminate the Presidential Election Campaign Fund and HR 634, a bill to terminate the EAC. In the letter, reform groups urged the committee members to reject both bills. The letter said, “At stake is the survival of the public financing system for presidential elections and a commission that plays a vitally important role in standardizing and modernizing election administration.” Reform groups oppose HR 133 because according to the letter, “It vitiates an important check on special interest money by eliminating public financing for presidential campaigns.”

Voting Blogs: We Still Need the EAC | Election Academy

Tomorrow, the Committee on House Administration (CHA) will convene to markup H.R. 634, the “Election Assistance Commission Termination Act.” The bill is part of CHA Chairman Gregg Harper (MS-3)’s ongoing attempt to eliminate the EAC, a campaign he has waged for several Congresses (and about which I wrote most recently in March 2015). The bill itself is pretty simple: it dissolves the EAC, returns its NVRA (“motor voter”) regulatory authority to the Federal Election Commission (whence it came thanks to the Help America Vote Act of 2002) and directs the federal government to wind up the EAC’s affairs. The bill is silent on other key facets of the EAC’s work, like certification and testing of voting technology and data collection via the Election Administration and Voting Survey. It’s hard to believe such work would simply stop, but the bill says nothing about what would happen post-termination.

National: Voting infrastructure protections need fleshing out | GCN

Although voting systems have been designated “critical infrastructure” by the Department of Homeland Security on Jan. 6, the federal commission that helps state governments develop voting systems and administer elections is unsure of the implications of the new designation. U.S. Election Assistance Commission plans to sit down with officials from DHS on Feb. 2 to get a clearer understanding of that protection. The systems were designated as a subsector the of the existing Government Facilities critical infrastructure sector, one of DHS 15 sectors that also cover the energy, communications and chemical sectors. “We still don’t know what it means,” Thomas Hicks, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission told FCW after his presentation at a biometric technology security conference in Arlington, Va., on Jan 24. “We’re hoping to have a forum to ask DHS and the Trump administration what the designation means and does it go forward” under the new administration, Hicks said.

National: EAC commissioner underscores importance of congressional support for election assistance | The Hill

While many inside the beltway are focused on the transition to a new administration and Congress, election officials across the country are already busy working to improve the accessibility and accuracy of the 2018 election. Their most trusted partner in that work is the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), an agency that is committed to working with States to provide Americans with voting systems that are secure, accurate and accessible.

National: Election Assistance Commission seeks clarity on DHS election role | FCW

The federal commission that helps state governments develop voting systems and administer elections plans to sit down with officials from the Department of Homeland Security in the coming days to get a clearer understanding of the implications of that agency’s “critical infrastructure” designation of state voting systems. “We still don’t know what it means,” Thomas Hicks, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission told FCW after his presentation at a biometric technology security conference in Arlington, Va., on Jan 24. The EAC, Hicks said, plans to meet with DHS officials on Feb. 2 to talk specifics about the agency’s early January designation of voting systems as critical infrastructure. The systems were designated as a subsector the of the existing Government Facilities critical infrastructure sector, one of DHS 15 sectors that also cover the energy, communications and chemical sectors. “We’re hoping to have a forum to ask DHS and the Trump administration what the designation means and does it go forward” under the new administration, Hicks said.

National: Online voting systems raise hacking concerns | Fox News

Voting can be as easy as a click of the mouse – but is it secure? Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia now allow some form of online voting, from casting your vote online to sending an email. But after high-profile hacks like those at the Democratic National Committee, the Obama administration is looking at ways to protect online voting amid growing concerns about whether these systems are vulnerable. “There’s a vital national interest in our election process, so I do think we need to consider whether it should be considered by my department and others critical infrastructure,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said.

National: Former Nevada Treasurer nominated for federal election panel | Las Vegas Review-Journal

President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated former Nevada Treasurer Kate Marshall as a member of the Election Assistance Commission. Marshall, who has been a principal with her firm, Marshall Legal Consulting, since 2015 served as state treasurer from 2007 to 2014. She was a senior deputy attorney general in the Nevada attorney general’s office from 1997 to 2000. From 2015 to 2016, she was the executive director of Opportunity Alliance Nevada.

Editorials: Brian Newby and Kris Kobach are tangled in a web of voter restrictions | Steve Rose/The Kansas City Star

The Brian Newby I knew in the 11 years he served as Johnson County election commissioner thought the big deal about voter fraud was blown way out of proportion. We discussed this on several occasions. I knew he had to be careful what he said because his boss — the one who appointed him — was none other than Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Kobach has a national reputation as one of the most virulent crusaders for restrictive voting because, Kobach claims, he wants to stamp out voter fraud. There has been no indication in Kansas or anywhere else that voter fraud is a major issue. Kobach pushed for laws that require Kansans who want to register to vote to come up with documents like a passport or birth certificate, which tens of thousands of Kansans — mostly poor — don’t have, and therefore they cannot vote. (Note: This is not about showing a driver’s license at the time you vote, which is a reasonable request.) Newby told me that over his entire term he came across only a couple of instances of double-voting that could technically be defined as fraud. However, Newby was clear that he thought these were mistakes, not intentional fraud.

Editorials: Republicans Hijack an Election Agency | The New York Times

For 10 years, the Election Assistance Commission, the bipartisan federal agency created after the 2000 election debacle to help make voting easier and more standardized, has made it clear that prospective voters do not need to prove that they are American citizens before they may register. Anyone registering to vote with the federal voter-registration form, which can be used for both federal and state elections, must already sign a statement swearing that he or she is a citizen. Congress rejected a proposal to require documented proof as well, finding that the threat of criminal prosecution for a false statement was enough to deter fraud. This did not satisfy some states, like Kansas and Arizona, where Republican officials have fought for years to block voting by anyone who cannot come up with a birth certificate or a passport.