Yesterday Republicans on the House Administration Committee voted to abolish the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which was mandated by the Help America Vote act (HAVA) of 2002 to distribute government funding for the purchase by all states of new election machinery in the wake of the Florida 200 debacle of hanging chads and Jews voting for Buchanan. It was also tasked with establishing standards for the election systems that we have or look to purchase and for assisting states with the arduous maze of election administration, which so varies according to governmental units at every level from federal to state to town and township.
EAC's history has been bumpy at best. First were the logistics of setting it up from scratch, which took more than a year with much less allocation than it needed and not enough money to officialize and thus disburse promised funding to the states, let alone research and publish guidelines for the best, most up-to-date and efficacious voting systems.
When the first head of EAC, DeForest Soaries, resigned from his post in April 2005, he chronicled the sorry details of an agency whose guidelines could only be suggestions. "It did not have statutory authority to regulate," he wrote. "Either EAC or some agency must have the capacity to hold the entire system . . . [including the manufacturers and vendors of voting machines] accountable. [Where this does not exist], then you're open for fraud and for inefficiency."
Other complications were legion. Computer scientist and professor David Dill (in a New York Times editorial) wrote that software certification, with one million lines of code, is impossible; "there is no technology that can find all of the bugs and malicious things in software."
EAC was the agency tasked by HAVA to help America vote. It did publish guidelines in 2005 and 2007 while many states' equipment was up to snuff with 2002 guidelines sadly outdated. . . . After a quorum of EAC commissioners was lost in 2010 and not replenished until the end of 2014, further guidelines were published in 2015. The quorum could not be reestablished earlier than that because the House committee Republicans kept blocking nominees for the positions open.
The point is that much has been written and myriad roadblocks have been set up against fair elections in this country, as the Democratic population has steadily grown. They are clearly the majority, which would be clearly reflected in the government were the votes counted accurately. White Republicans are pushing back with masterful aplomb and ingenuity and without ethics. When they couldn't abolish the Office of Congressional Ethics, they turned to the EAC, among other entities. They abolished an office established to help us vote and have activated myriad forms of hindering the majority from voting. The floor vote hasn't yet been taken in the HR and may not be, but the EAC is history.
Its role as a guide and standard setter has been relegated to the Federal Election Commission, which was founded in 1974 to focus on campaign funding, just before the SCOTUS decision early in January of 1976 in Buckley v. Valeo ruled against limits on money donated to political candidates. The limits had been established in 1971 by the law that set up the FEC--the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), as amended in 1974. It in turn was passed in response to the Watergate debacle to limit the amount of money donated to political campaigns and require publication of such amounts when they exceeded the threshold set.
Today the FEC is run by a nonpartisan commission composed of three Republicans and three Democrats, who vote along partisan lines so that politicization stands in the way of getting things done, whatever the task.
Many, many miracles are needed for us to survive the days, months, and years ahead of us given our current political straits. The Sister Giant conference last weekend dwelt on miracles and our ability to make them happen (OEN has published numerous articles about this event all week). One miracle will occur when our electoral system becomes trustworthy and accountable as well as transparent. I won't bet on the now-bloated FEC accomplishing this. Not that I did before yesterday. But at least in name, consistently opposed by Republicans, we had an entity dedicated to helping the people vote, an entity said to be dedicated to preventing election fraud and corruption.
Never underestimate the power of words.
******P.S.: I am happy to report that the FEC has sprung into action by replying to Prez Trump's claim that voter fraud awarded New Hampshire's electoral votes to former SoS Hillary Clinton. According to WaPo reporting on George Stephanopoulos's Sunday program "The Week": Stephanopoulos, interviewing White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, asked him: "Let me move on, though, to the question of voter fraud as well. President Trump again this week suggested in a meeting with senators that thousands of illegal voters were bused from Massachusetts to New Hampshire and that's what caused his defeat in the state of New Hampshire, also the defeat of Senator Kelly Ayotte. That has provoked a response from a member of the Federal Election Commission, Ellen Weintraub, who says, "I call upon the president to immediately share New Hampshire voter fraud evidence so that his allegations may be investigated promptly." Do you have that evidence?"
Weintraub's partisan affiliation (alas the commissioners of the FEC are partisan affiliates) is immaterial here. As far as I know, none of her fellow commissioners has spoken out against her.