Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, urged fellow lawmakers not to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission at a House Subcommittee on Elections hearing Thursday morning.
“The EAC has created a comprehensive program to test state voting systems for accuracy—and use of this program has been shown to save our states millions of dollars and up to 12 months of testing time,” he said.
Established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002, the commission assists state officials with election funding and data collection. It also collects and standardizes data from the states and acts as a clearinghouse for best practices and election information.
Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning testified that the organization has “outlived its usefulness.”
Secretaries of state from Florida, New Hampshire and Mississippi supported eliminating the commission, saying the responsibilities of the agency could be handled by other entities like the Federal Election Commission or Federal Voting Assistance Program.
Hoyer said the commission should continue to handle voting-related issues because the FEC is focused on campaign finance, not elections.
Rep. Charles Gonzalez, D-Texas, said shifting the duties of the EAC to another organization would not reduce spending because the agencies assuming those roles would require additional funding.
Witness John Fortier, a research fellow from the American Enterprise Institute, said he would like to see a “leaner, meaner EAC.”
Even if the agency is eliminated, Fortier said, continued data gathering and standardization by other agencies is necessary.
Jill LaVine, registrar of voters for Sacramento County, Calif., said election officials rely on the assistance and guidance of the commission. The agency helped local officials when Sacramento introduced assist terminals for disabled voters, she said.
“No one pays any attention to an election official until something goes wrong,” LaVine said. “Now is not the time to terminate the EAC.”
Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said the commission has become redundant. He testified that the agency’s data reporting requirements have burdened states’ small election staffs.
Hoyer conceded that spending cuts and program reform may be appropriate for the agency but questioned the bill stating, “Should that mean that therefore we should abolish an agency which the Congress overwhelmingly decided was a useful and appropriate function for the federal government to follow? I think not.”
–By Capital News Service’s Laura E. Lee