Republicans To Kill Agency Ensuring Voting Machines Can’t Be Hacked

There is no doubt whatsoever that Republicans are as opposed to free and fair elections as they are equal rights for all Americans; there is ample evidence to back up that assertion. Forget all the voter suppression laws being passed in Republican states, and instead recall that the Koch brothers legislative arm that controls Republicans, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), has refused, en masse, to sign a pledge that the conservative organization supports democracy. Republicans, to a person, never condemned its “legislation mill” for rejecting democracy, and coupled with their ardent aversion to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and campaign finance laws, it is blatantly apparent that Republicans as a political movement detest democracy and the democratic process.

Republicans have also pretended there is nothing for Americans to worry about after a hostile foreign power interfered in a presidential election to install a white trash Republican in the White House. They also laughed off reports that the Russians had hacked into 39 states’ voting systems prior to the 2016 election.

Now there is more proof that Republicans are intent on decimating what’s left of America’s dying democracy by making it much easier for the Russians, or the Republican Party, or dirty Donald Trump to subvert the democratic process; by purposely making it easy to hack into America’s voting machines and control the outcome of elections in every state in the Union.

In February, the GOP-controlled House Administration Committee voted to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The EAC is a particularly small federal agency with a gargantuan task that includes, besides assisting states to run elections, ensuring that the nations’ voting machines cannot be hacked; the EAC is the only federal agency tasked with safeguarding voting machines from hacking.

The EAC was created after the farcical 2000 election in Florida “to rectify problems like butterfly ballots and hanging chads.” As one would expect from an anti-democracy movement, the Republican Party has attempted to “kill the agency” since its inception.

Last Thursday, to finally achieve their goal, Republicans in the House inserted an amendment in a spending bill that gives the EAC exactly 60 days “to terminate itself” before the campaigns for the 2018 midterms get serious; likely to give Trump and the Russians an easier means of “controlling the outcome of the midterm elections.

House Democrats attempted to save the EAC by introducing an amendment of their own at the markup to save what’s left of “free and fair elections,” and they rightly argued that given the success of Russia’s inference in the last election, the EAC’s role was more important than ever. Of course Republicans rejected the facts and blew off the threat from Russia; they said the “Homeland Security Department has jurisdiction over cyber and election security, not the agency tasked with ensuring free and fair elections” by preventing cyber attacks on voting machines.

An EAC spokeswoman, Brenda Bowser Soder, related that the agency has been “active in the conversation around cybersecurity for a long time.” Ms. Browser Soder also added that the EAC is the only federal agency that provides cybersecurity experts with information on election processes as well as helping increase voting access, boosting election security and updating election equipment to prevent hacking.

The author of the “save the EAC” amendment, Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL) said that “terminating” the important agency would “be a step backward for the nation.” He also said:

Eliminating the agency would be dramatically out of step with the federal government’s work to improve the nation’s election systems. No other federal agency has the capacity, willingness or expertise to effectively absorb these functions.”

A law professor at U.C. Irvine and founding co-editor of the Election Law Journal, Richard Hasen, said it would be a “tremendous mistake to assume” some other agency could take on EAC’s duties. Mr. Hasen also noted the Republicans’ crusade to eliminate the EAC is not a new one, as House Republicans view the agency as “federal infringement on an inherently state and local function.

Republicans are lying because they ardently support dirty Donald’s attempt to “infringe on states election functions” by intimidating 50 states’ elections officials to turn over their respective state’s private election data to a Trump-created federal commission.

According to Adam Ambrogi, the Democracy Fund’s director of Elections Programs, there are currently 47 states that test their elections systems at the federal level through EAC. Mr. Ambrogi said state election officials need a distinct federal agency to turn to for assistance with people who actually have experience running elections, which the EAC currently offers.

One former senior litigator at the Department of Justice’s Voting Section and current executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, David Becker, said that after the 2016 election debacle, the EAC has been particularly busy. He said:

They (EAC) are traveling around and speaking right now to county election officials across the country. The agency has been extremely active on recent [cyber] threats. If the EAC is eliminated, the happiest people out there would be the hackers.”

There is no doubt Republicans and Trump would be extremely happy to have free rein to control elections without the interference of a tiny federal agency with 31 employees and a budget of about one-percent of what taxpayers spend for Trump to play golf for one weekend. But this isn’t about money or federal interference in state and local elections; this is about making it easy to control the outcome of elections and nothing else. Republicans know it, the Russians know it, and dirty Don Trump knows it.

A Democratic Representative from Pennsylvania, Matt Cartwright told Republicans during the “markup”  that the EAC provides expertise to states and other agencies as well as “helps improve voting access for military personnel and other Americans overseas, and the disabled. Those functions would simply cease to exist.” No other agency provides those important services to guarantee free and fair elections.

The EAC spokeswoman Bowser Soder said the agency would not lobby lawmakers, but she still defended the agency’s mission.

We feel we play a unique role in serving election officials and voters and we’ll continue to do that as long as we’re around. We hope to continue that for a long time.”

Ms. Browser Soder’s hope is, although well-intended, the epitome of naïveté if she thinks for a second that Republicans will allow the agency to continue one day past the “60-day self-termination” deadline. Republicans hate democracy and the quickest way to eliminate it from America is terminating any agency tasked with ensuring free and fair elections; something Republicans, dirty Don Trump, and his Russian facilitators are not going to tolerate.