Federal Election Commission staff today traveled to Capitol Hill and briefed congressional officials investigating the beleaguered agency on how it intends to address recent computer security and staffing problems, officials from both government bodies confirmed. The FEC’s contingent was led by Alec Palmer, who doubles as the agency’s staff and information technology director. It wasn’t immediately clear how many congressional officials participated in the meetings, although a spokesman for Rep. Robert Brady, D-Pa., confirmed to the Center for Public Integrity that his office participated. Brady, along with Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., last week called for separate inquiries into the FEC’s recent woes, which include an October infiltrationinto its computer systems by Chinese hackers. Brady is the ranking member on the Committee on House Administration, which has FEC oversight powers.
Two congressional leaders — one Republican and one Democrat — are calling for investigations into Federal Election Commission computer security and operational breakdowns that the Center for Public Integrity detailed in a recent report. The report revealed that Chinese hackers crashed the FEC’s computer information technology systems in October just as the federal government shut down, and that the agency is suffering from chronic staffing shortages. A subsequent audit the FEC commissioned revealed a variety of other security issues. “The revelations that FEC IT systems were compromised raises serious concerns,” said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Government Operations Subcommittee which oversees federal IT matters. “I am working with my staff and the staff of the full House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to investigate the extent of the breaches, and I intend to conduct a full and thorough review of the vulnerabilities of FEC systems which should raise concerns for all federal elected officials.”
Two powerful Democrats are poised to urge President Obama to resuscitate a defunct federal panel created to help Americans vote. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) are preparing a resolution calling on the president to fill the vacancies on the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), Hoyer said Tuesday. The four-seat board has been empty for more than a year, largely because GOP leaders — wary of Washington’s role in state-run elections — have refused to recommend nominees to fill the spots, as current law dictates. That’s a mistake, Hoyer said, particularly in a political environment where an increasing number of states have made it tougher to vote in the name of fighting fraud. “The Election Assistance Commission was established to provide advice and council on best practices on elections. It has been allowed to atrophy, and the Republicans want to eliminate it,” Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol. “It’s interesting but disappointing.”
Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) this week is unveiling his next step in the battle over voting rights in the form of a pop-up Web application that informs people where to vote and how to register. Hoyer and Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.), the ranking Democrat on the House Administration Committee, sent a letter to colleagues dated Monday to introduce the new application and encourage members to use it, specifically recommending sharing it through social media. The letter urges that it is the “responsibility” of elected leaders to help inform constituents about the democratic process. “In the last year, we have witnessed a nationwide assault on American citizens’ constitutionally-guaranteed right to vote,” they wrote. “Aside from the unnecessary, expensive, and ineffective new Voter ID laws, we have also seen targeted purges of eligible, registered voters from state rolls. Little has been done to educate the public about these actions. As a result, there are thousands of eligible voters at risk of being turned away from the polls while attempting to make choices about their federal representation.”
Five million. That’s the number of eligible voters that could find it harder to cast their ballot in the 2012 elections. It’s also the figure that advocates against state voting law changes repeatedly echoed during a Capitol Hill forum on new state voting laws that several House Democrats, including Representatives John Conyers, Steny Hoyer, Robert Brady, Jerrold Nadler, and Keith Ellison called Monday.
The NAACP, ACLU and League of Women Voters, among other research and advocacy organizations asked lawmakers to pass legislation to protect voters’ rights. They also wanted Congress to pressure the Department of Justice to deny approval to the states that need it for their new laws to take effect. So far, this includes Alabama, South Carolina and Texas, which are among the nine states that need federal approval for any changes to voting laws under the Voting Rights Act.
Two Democratic congressmen asked the U.S. Department of Justice Tuesday to investigate whether Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler violated federal law when he asked a judge to stop the Denver clerk and recorder from mailing ballots to inactive voters. The letter from Rep. Robert Brady of Pennsylvania and Charles Gonzalez of Texas says Gessler’s actions may violate the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discriminatory voting procedures.
“Given the diversity of the state of Colorado, and particularly that of Denver County, there is a high likelihood that the barrier to voting Secretary Gessler seeks to impose . . . will have such a discriminatory result,” the letter states.
It says that not mailing ballots to eligible voters listed as “inactive” because they didn’t vote last year “might make participation particularly hard” for disabled voters who may not have been able to get to the polls and Americans who may have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan in 2010 but who want to vote Nov. 1.
House Republicans have set up a Tuesday suspension vote to repeal the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which they say is an agency in search of a mission that should be terminated to reduce federal spending. But Democrats are rejecting these arguments, making it unclear whether the bill can pass by the necessary two-thirds vote.
Republicans say the EAC can be safely terminated because it has fulfilled its primary mission, which is to offer grants to states to replace outdated voting equipment, such as punchcard and lever-based machines. The EAC was established in 2002, soon after the controversial 2000 presidential election that involved several weeks of recounting votes in Florida and related legal challenges.
National: Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer to Testify Before House Administration Election Subcommittee | Committee on House Administration
On Thursday, April 14th, at 10:30am, the Elections Subcommittee of the Committee on House Administration will hold a hearing on H.R. 672, proposed legislation to abolish the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, one of the main architects of the Help America Vote Act which created the EAC, is scheduled to testify about…