Ensure Reliable Elections: Oppose Any Amendments to Defund the Election Assistance Commission
Advocacy Letter - 06/13/12
Source: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Recipient: U.S. Senate
On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 210 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States, we urge you to oppose any efforts to eliminate funding for the Election Assistance Commission (“EAC” or “Commission”) in tomorrow’s mark-up of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill. We are committed to supporting and expanding the civil and voting rights of all Americans, and believe defunding the EAC risks reducing the rights for which many have given their lives.
The Leadership Conference believes that elections are fundamental to a functioning democracy and that every effort should be made to elevate their administration to the highest importance. Congress should not turn its back on federal efforts to ensure election integrity, improve voter access to the polls, and improve election systems. The value of the EAC far outweighs its monetary costs; in fact, the costs of poorly run elections are detrimental to our nation.
In this climate of increased efforts in the states to erect barriers to the ballot box and suppress the vote, it is particularly alarming that this Congress would consider eliminating a vital institution whose primary purpose is to protect the rights of those who are most frequently disenfranchised and least able to advocate for their right to vote. Additionally, with the 2012 presidential election season well underway, this Congress should focus its efforts on enhancing those institutions with primary voting rights enforcement responsibilities, not undermining their existence.
The EAC does valuable work to ensure the reliability and trustworthiness of our nation’s election systems. 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 if we are going to improve our citizens’ trust and confidence in election results. The Commission develops and fosters the training and organization of our nation’s more than 8,000 election administrators. Through its many working committees and the work it does to foster robust dialogue among advocates, manufacturers, and administrators, the Commission is improving the administration of elections. The EAC’s award-winning web page has become the “go to” site for election administrators, advocates, and academics.
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 have been impressed with our system and have signed agreements with the EAC for technical assistance as they develop their own voting system standards and certification procedures. The EAC’s certification program uses its oversight role to coordinate with manufacturers and local election officials to ensure that existing voting equipment meets durability and longevity standards. This saves state and local governments from the unnecessary expense of new voting equipment.
The EAC’s leadership is essential to continuing the effort to offer all Americans the right to vote “privately and independently.” Notably, the EAC has played a central role in improving the accessibility of voting for the country’s more than 37 million voters with disabilities.
Additionally, there are many areas of election administration where the EAC’s work is still needed, including statewide voter registration lists, provisional balloting, list cleaning, voting machines and tabulating, access to registration, and meeting voter information needs. There are also critical questions that must be addressed about the application of new technologies like the Internet to the voting and registration processes. Each of these areas would benefit from additional study, data gathering and information sharing among election officials at every level, the public and concerned organizations. This is the EAC’s core function.
As we approach the 2012 elections, the EAC must continue to do its important work. Rather than defunding, in an election year, the only federal agency that devotes its full resources and attention to improving our elections, we believe Congress must continue to adequately fund the Commission.
Thank you for your consideration of our position. If you have any questions about this letter, please contact Leadership Conference Senior Counsel Lisa Bornstein, at (202) 263-2856 or Bornstein@civilrights.org.
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