Minority View on H.R. 672
The Majority has noted that they "conducted vigorous oversight of Federal election policy". What oversight we have seen has been singularly focused on dismantling the key election administration and campaign finance reforms of the past several decades.
The history of voting in the United States is not one of free and fair elections. Poll taxes, literacy tests, voter intimidation, and outright, de jure denial ofthe franchise to U.S. citizens of this most fundamental of American rights has been commonplace throughout our history. While the most egregious and obvious methods of denying the basic principle of "one man, one vote" have been eradicated, problems still persist in ensuring that every eligible voter has access to our voting system.
The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is an imperfect but important agency created with bipartisan support in the shadow ofthe 2000 presidential election and tasked with helping states to avoid a repeat of that catastrophic failure. Since its inception, the EAC has provided state and local election officials with resources to support efforts by the states to improve their voting systems. Through its national database for voters, poll workers, and states to create a more perfect voting system, it has provided guidance on best practices, technical certifications, and other means to ensure the integrity of elections in every jurisdiction in the Union.
Terminating the EAC would not save money
While the Majority insists that the termination of the EAC would yield cost savings by moving the functions of the EAC to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), FEC Chair Cynthia Bauerly has made it clear that the FEC would require additional resources to assume the functions currently administered by the EAC, while also fulfilling its primary missionregulating campaign finances.
In response to a request from the Ranking Democratic Member, Chair Bauerly writes:
Should Congress enact this bill and provide an appropriation that adequately reflects this change we believe that the FEC could absorb the added functions and responsibilities while continuing to fulfill our current mission successfully.
It is important to note that during the mark-up of H.R. 672, Representative Gonzalez offered a perfecting amendment requiring a GAO study to determine if the FEC could assume the additional responsibilities of the EAC and if any cost savings to the federal government would be realized without disfranchising voters. Such a common sense amendment could only buttress the claims of the Majority as they contend that there would be no negative consequence to voters or to the FEC with the termination of the EAC. Instead of a bi-partisan embrace, this amendment was rejected on a party line vote.
EAC integral in improving accessibility for Military and Overseas Voters
The Committee held two hearings on military and overseas voting during the 2010 election; "Military and Overseas Voting: Effectiveness of the MOVE Act in the 2010 Election ", and "The 2010 Election: A Look Back at What Went Right and Wrong. " A focus of both hearings was the accessibility of our voting systems to military and overseas voters. The EAC maintains and compiles data that make up the most comprehensive repository of information on military and overseas voters. The information EAC has gathered provides state and local election officials with a blueprint to ensure that military personnel stationed overseas can exercise their most basic of rights.
EAC is currently working with the Department of Defense on a pilot program to develop a full set of testable standards for overseas voters. During FY 20 I 0, the EAC provided grants to research the implementation of new technologies that will improve accessibility for injured military personnel. Elimination of the EAC could jeopardize the improvements already made and negatively impact projects underway that are designed to improve accessibility for overseas military and citizens.
The Majority's plan to eliminate the EAC, H.R. 672, does not include provisions for transferring these initiatives to the FEC. This inherent deficiency in the legislation could result in the disfranchisement of military voters and Americans living overseas.
EAC integral in improving accessibility for persons with disabilities
Since the creation of the EAC and its emphasis on assuring compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, there has been a decrease in the number of polling places cited for insufficient access for voters with physical disabilities. Additionally, EAC efforts have contributed to the increase of the number of disabled voters who have been able to vote privately and independent of assistance. The EAC guidance can point out to election officials barriers the disabled face of which they were not even aware, as well as provide proven solutions to those problems and ways to make polling places more accessible for voters with disabilities.
The management guide for disabled and elderly voters in long term care facilities that EAC developed and published provides state and local election officials with new tools to reach out to mobility-challenged voters of all ages. The agency has also established a grant program to advance technology that allows people with disabilities to vote privately and independently.
The National Disability Rights Network, an advocacy group representing [tens of] millions of individuals with disabilities, may say it best: "[a]bolishing the EAC at this point in time would be a step back for people with disabilities and the goal of full accessibility to the voting process, and prevent people with disabilities from partaking of this most fundamental civil right."
Committee Majority has missed opportunity to strengthen voting protections
During the markup of H.R. 672, the Majority had the opportunity to strengthen voting accessibility. Representative Gonzalez offered a substitute that would have made polling places more accessible by ensuring compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It would also have increased efficiency and cost savings by having EAC conduct a comprehensive study of how federal, state, and local governments could reduce the costs of election administration. The substitute would have also increased transparency by overhauling the system of payments for and disclosure of testing and certification of voting equipment. These are all commonsense steps that would strengthen voter accessibility, improve elections' efficiency, and produce cost savings while still protecting the rights of eligible voters. Unfortunately, this attempt to "amend it rather than end it" was defeated on a party line vote.
Major Civil Rights organizations oppose HR. 672
H.R. 672 is opposed by a broad spectrum of civil rights organizations such as the NAACP, League of Women Voters, National Association of Latino Appointed and Elected Officials, National Disability Rights Network, and Public Citizen.