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. Eliminating the United States Election Assistance Commission will lead to less secure and more costly elections in the future.
The EAC was created in 2002 as part of the Help America Vote Act, which itself was a response to real failures of election administration in the 2000 election. The goal was never to centralize election administration within the federal government, but rather to provide support to state and local administrators on the front lines of the voting experience. Notably, even after one of the closest elections in history, the bill passed with nearly unanimous bipartisan support.
From its creation, the EAC has never had more than 60 employees (including myself from 2008 to 2011), and it currently has half as many. But this small agency was given responsibility for “Motor Voter,” collecting data from states, and—for the first time ever—testing and certifying voting systems to standards. With rigorous research, strong fact-based data, and a comprehensive perspective on voting practices across the country, this agency moves the needle forward on essential improvements that states often resist without a little push.