By Susan Parnas Frederick and Wendy Underhill
The U.S. House Committee on House Administration voted 6-3 along party lines this week to terminate the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC).
The committee passed HR 634, the Election Assistance Commission Termination Act, sponsored by Chairman Gregg Harper (R-Miss.). The measure would terminate the EAC, including its Board of Advisors, because it “has outlived its usefulness and purpose,” and has fulfilled all of its congressional mandates under the Help America Vote Act of 2002. Ranking member Robert Brady (D-Penn.) noted to the committee that the EAC has helped numerous state and local election officials over the years by serving as a national clearinghouse for election administration best practices and has specifically assisted states and localities during election 2016 with foreign hacking of U.S. election systems.
If passed, the EAC would terminate 60 days from the effective date of the enactment of the bill and all functions of the EAC would be transferred to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
The bill would also terminate the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC), which is the entity responsible for developing “voluntary voting systems guidelines.” According to Harper, the technical guidelines developed by the TDGC and adopted by the EAC are hardly ever used. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) reminded the committee that the creation of the EAC and the TGDC was a bipartisan effort because of shared concern after the 2000 election that our election systems and administration of elections needed to be reformed.
NCSL’s webpage, Voting System Standards, Testing and Certification, describes the standards set by each state. Some states adopt federal standards, some develop their own standards and others use a hybrid of both. NCSL research indicates 37 states use some aspect of federal guidelines in their own certification requirements, and another four refer to federal standards in some way.
To date, there is no counterpart bill introduced in the U.S. Senate. NCSL does have policy in support of the EAC because of the valuable services it provides to state and local election officials. This position is included in NCSL’s Election Reform policy.
Susan Parnas Frederick is senior federal affairs counsel in NCSL's Washington D.C. office. Wendy Underhill heads NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting Program.