Rep. Gregg Harper is proposing legislation to shut down the Election Assistance Commission.
House Republicans may have found a way to trim $14 million from the federal budget: eliminate the Election Assistance Commission.
The House Administration Committee is holding a hearing today to discuss closing the agency that is charged with administering federal election requirements and testing voting equipment. A corresponding Republican bill that would transfer most of the agency’s responsibilities to the Federal Election Commission may run into strong Democratic opposition.
Getting rid of the EAC would save millions and reduce government redundancy, according the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Gregg Harper.
The EAC has “clearly served its purpose and is no longer essential to the administration of our elections,” the Mississippi Republican, chairman of the Subcommittee on Elections, said in a statement. “This is why I have introduced legislation to eliminate the Commission and transfer its remaining responsibilities and its authority to more appropriate and competent entities.”
But Minority Whip Steny Hoyer may have a thing or two to say about Harper’s plan as the first witness slated to testify at today’s hearing. Excerpts of the Maryland Democrat’s written testimony obtained by Roll Call show he will come out sharply against closing the EAC.
“Abolishing the EAC would be an invitation to repeat mistakes that blemished our democracy in 2000,” Hoyer says in the testimony. The EAC is important to Hoyer because he co-sponsored the law that created the EAC — the Help America Vote Act of 2002 — after the turmoil surrounding the presidential election recounts in 2000.
“The work of the EAC matters to voters, who deserve assurance that their votes will count on Election Day, and to poll workers, who, across the country, are being asked to do more with less and still ensure that polling places operate smoothly,” Hoyer’s draft testimony states.
“Especially now, with partisan polarization at historic highs and close elections more and more the norm, the last thing this nation needs are voting systems and procedures whose reliability causes the losing camp to question the integrity of the outcome. Americans need to know that whoever wins on Election Day won as a result of reliable voting systems and a fair vote.”
The EAC has come under scrutiny in recent years as Congressional leaders have questioned its spending. Even the White House reduced its federal spending for the agency in its 2012 budget request as the Office of Management and Budget cut some of the agency’s grants.
Though the ultimate fate of the EAC rests with the passage of proposals, the agency says it is still working to fulfill its duties. “The Help America Vote Act gave us important work to do on behalf of voters and election officials,” EAC spokeswoman Jeannie Layson said. “Unless and until Congress tells us otherwise, we will continue to focus on our mission — improving federal elections.”
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