Republicans in state legislatures across the country have spent the past year mounting an all-out assault on voting rights, pushing a slew of voter ID and redistricting measures that are widely expected to dilute the power of minority and low-income voters in next November’s elections. Now that effort has come to Capitol Hill, where a congressional committee will vote Thursday on a GOP-backed bill to eviscerate the Election Assistance Commission (EAC)—the last line of defense against fraud and tampering in electronic voting systems around the country.
The EAC was created in the wake of 2000’s controversial presidential election as a means of improving the quality standards for electronic voting systems. Its four commissioners (two Republicans and two Democrats) are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The commission tests voting equipment for states and localities, distributes grants to help improve voting standards, and offers helpful guidance on proofing ballots to some 4,600 local election jurisdictions. It also collects information on overseas and military voters and tracks the return rate for absentee ballots sent to these voters.
On Friday, a House subcommittee on elections will vote on Rep. Gregg Harper’s (R-Miss.) bill eliminating the EAC along with the longstanding public financing system for presidential campaigns. Republicans claim that the commission has already achieved its aim of cleaning up elections. Its responsibilities, they argue, can be reabsorbed by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which oversaw voting machine certification prior to the EAC’s creation in 2002. Ending the EAC, Republicans estimate, will save $33 million over the next five years.
Good-government groups, including the Campaign Legal Center, the League of Women Voters, and People for the American Way, have leaped to the commission’s defense, arguing that eliminating it would pose a “threat to the health of our democracy and yet another distraction from the vital and unfinished business before the House.”
Democrats have argued that eliminating the EAC will shift the cost of administering elections to state and local governments at a time they can least afford it. Having the FEC, which oversees campaign spending, handle voting machine certification precipitated the Florida recount in 2000. That debacle led directly to the EAC’s creation in the first place. “I…do not want to see another fiasco like what we endured in 2000,” wrote Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) in a statement denouncing the move. “It seems Republicans are more interested in keeping people from the polls than protecting the right to vote.”
While Republicans want to kill the EAC, election security experts like the Brennan Center for Justice’s Larry Norden advocate its expansion. Last year, he wrote a report listing roughly 200 cases of inaccurate vote tallies and other problems attributed to voting systems dating back to 2002. In many of the cases Norden examined, voting machine vendors like Hart InterCivic and big-time player Election Systems & Software (ES&S) blamed the mistakes on election officials rather than their machines.
Full Article: The GOP’s War on Voting Comes to Washington | Mother Jones.