Republicans vote to eliminate the only agency that protects voting machines from hacking

Election 2016 Ballot

Photo via Frankie Leon

The EAC certifies voting machines.

As President Donald Trump maintains his baseless claims of voter fraud, the Republican-led House Administration Committee voted on Tuesday to dismantle the Election Assistance Commission—the only federal agency charged with helping states run elections and provide technical assistance to voting machines.

“It is my firm belief that the EAC has outlived its usefulness and purpose,” Committee chair Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) said of the bill. 

“If we’re looking at reducing the size of government, this is a perfect example of something that can be eliminated,” Harper continued. “We don’t need fluff.” 

The EAC has an annual budget of $10 million and provides technical assistance for voting machines.

Harper’s legislation transfers the EAC’s authority to the Federal Election Commission. However, the FEC is notoriously overwhelmed and unable to enforce election laws. “People think the FEC is dysfunctional,” Ann Ravel, an FEC commissioner and the agency’s former chairwoman, told the New York Times in May 2015. “It’s worse than dysfunctional.”

The House committee was divided along party lines by 6-3, over the move that had been opposed by 38 activist and rights groups including the NAACP and Brennan Centre for Justice.

“At a time when the vast majority of our country’s voting machines are outdated and in need of replacement, and after an election in which international criminals already attempted to hack our state voter registration systems, eliminating the EAC would pose a risky and irresponsible threat to our election infrastructure,” Wendy Weiser, director of Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, wrote in a letter to Harper.

The EAC was created through the Help America Vote Act of 2002, a consequence of the 2000 presidential election Florida vote recount. Its primary duties involve providing information and support for the implementation and administration of elections as well as the testing and certification of election equipment.

Given that Trump insists he was disenfranchised by widespread voter fraud, it is strange that his party would disempower the agency entrusted with electoral integrity. Some view this as proof of disparity between the White House clique and the GOP party ranks.

In an interview on Sunday, Trump told Fox News that Vice President Mike Pence would lead a White House commission and investigative hunt for instances of voter fraud in November’s election. Trump insists, without providing any evidence and despite winning the Electoral College, that up to 5 million fake ballots were cast that meant he should have won the popular vote also.

It is unclear whether the full Republican-controlled House will vote on Harper’s legislation. However, Republicans have long sought to eliminate the EAC.

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