United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

Via e-mail

Re: Oppose Any Efforts to Defund the Election Assistance Commission

June 13, 2012

Dear Senator:

The undersigned respectfully urge you to oppose an expected amendment that would eliminate funding for the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) during tomorrow’s mark-up of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill.  At a time when public support for Congress is at an all-time low, the last thing the Senate should do is intentionally diminish our democracy, but that is exactly what this amendment would do. 

The EAC, though it receives little attention, does invaluable work for those who work to improve our nation’s election system.  The EAC ensures the efficacy, reliability, and trustworthiness of our nation’s election systems. For example, the Commission plays a major role in collecting accurate and comparable election data. With our nation’s complex and diversified election administration system, central data collection is essential to accurately assess its state and therefore to improve our citizens’ trust and confidence in election results. The Commission also develops and fosters the training and organization of our nation’s more than 8,000 election administrators. The EAC’s award-winning web page has become the “go to” site for election administrators, advocates, and academics. 

Moreover, the Commission is charged with developing standards for voting systems, and this precedent-setting work has been recognized by nations around the world. Several countries are so impressed with our system that they have signed agreements with the EAC for technical assistance as they developed their own voting system standards and certification procedures. The EAC’s certification program is helping state and local governments to save money by using its oversight role to coordinate with manufacturers and local election officials to ensure that the existing equipment meets its durability and longevity potential. This saves state and local governments from the unnecessary expense of new voting equipment.

Importantly, the EAC has played a central role in improving the accessibility of voting for the country’s more than 37 million voters with disabilities. Although we still have a way to go to achieve the Help America Vote Act’s mandate to make voting accessible, the EAC’s leadership is essential to continuing the effort to offer all Americans the right to vote “privately and independently.”

Some have proposed that the EAC’s functions could be assumed by the FEC.  We believe that would not be wise.  The FEC is dysfunctional.  It is overwhelmed by its current responsibilities.  And the FEC is starkly divided on partisan lines, making it particularly inappropriate for election administration responsibilities.

Rather than eliminating funding for the EAC, Congress should provide the EAC with resources and a renewed commitment to sponsoring and encouraging information sharing among state and local officials, EAC committees, the non-partisan voting rights community, technical experts and others.

Elections are the life blood of a democracy. We strongly urge the committee to strengthen the Election Assistance Commission instead of terminating it.

Sincerely,

Dēmos

American Association of People with Disabilities

Brennan Center for Justice At NYU School of Law

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

The League of Women Voters of the United States