Ensure Reliable Elections: Oppose Any Amendments to Defund the EAC in S.1573

Media 11.4,11

Recipient: The Honorable Harry Reid

The Honorable Harry Reid
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Reid:

On behalf of The Leadership
Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse
membership of more than 200 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 the
Energy-Water (HR 2354), Financial Services (S 1573), and State-Foreign
Operations (S 1601) minibus appropriations bill.  As organizations that are committed to
supporting and expanding the civil and voting rights of all Americans, we have
devoted substantial resources to the passage of both the National Voter
Registration Act and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Defunding the EAC risks
reducing the voting and civil rights of our citizens—rights for which many have
given their lives.

In this climate of increased
voter suppression efforts in the states to erect barriers to the ballot box, it
is particularly alarming that this Congress would consider eliminating a vital
institution whose primary purpose is to further the goals of HAVA, one of our
nation’s major federal voting laws, and 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 are so impressed
with our system that they 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

The EAC has also played a
central role in improving the accessibility of voting for the country’s more
than 37 million voters with disabilities. We still have a long way to go to
achieve HAVA’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.” 

As we approach the 2012
elections, the EAC must continue to do its important work. Rather than
defunding the agency just before the 2012 elections, we believe Congress should
strengthen the Commission by broadening its data collection responsibilities
and by giving it regulatory authority to ensure that persons with disabilities
have full access to the polls. 

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 [email protected].


Wade Henderson
President & CEO

Nancy Zirkin
Executive Vice President