CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, June 21, 2011, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 672 under suspension of the rules. The bill was introduced by Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) on February 11, 2011, and referred to the Committee on House Administration, as well as the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. The Committee on House Administration held a mark-up on May 25, 2011 and reported the bill as amended by voice vote.
H.R. 672 would terminate the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and transfer the remaining operations to the Office of Management and Budget. According to the Committee on House Administration, the bill would save taxpayers $33 million over five years.
The bill would transfer the functions of the Office of Voting System Testing and Certification and its existing staff to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The bill would also transfer to the FEC all responsibilities pertaining to the adoption of Voluntary Voting System Guidelines; responsibilities for maintaining a clearinghouse on the election administration experiences of states; reporting requirements under Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA); and responsibilities for regulations concerning the national voter registration.
H.R. 672 would replace the Standards Board and Board of Advisors with a Guidelines Review Board made up of stakeholders from the elections community to review proposed Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) in the same manner currently done by the Advisory Board and Standards Board.
The bill would require the Comptroller General to conduct a study of the process for adoption of VVSGs and develop recommendations to improve such procedures. The bill would require this report be presented to Congress no later than two years after enactment of the Act. The bill would also require the FEC to conduct a study of the procedures for the testing, certification, decertification, and recertification of voting system hardware and software and develop a recommendation on the entity best suited to oversee and carry out such procedures. Lastly, the bill would require this report be presented to Congress no later than two years after enactment of the Act.
According to the Committee on House Administration, since 2005, the year Congress originally intended to sunset the EAC, the agency has more than doubled in size while its programs continue to decline. The National Association of Secretaries of State – the direct beneficiaries of the agency’s dwindling services – has passed two resolutions calling for the EAC’s dissolution. Its election research function is obsolete as it has completed four of the five federally mandated election studies. The one outstanding study is six years overdue and mired in interagency controversy.
The Agency has allocated all of its remaining election grants and even zeroed out its requests for additional grant funds in its last three annual budget requests. While its work diminishes, the agency spends over 50 percent of its budget on administrative costs.
In addition to two recent hiring discrimination lawsuits leveled against the agency, a 2008 survey found that a large portion of the agency’s ever-growing workforce is unsatisfied and feels that the agency fosters a hostile environment.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing H.R. 672 would reduce the need for future appropriations to support the EAC by $33 million over the 2012-2016 period, assuming future appropriations are reduced. CBO also estimates that enacting the bill would affect direct spending because some employees would retire sooner than expected under current law; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures apply.
CBO estimates that terminating the EAC would lead fewer than 10 of the agency’s employees to retire sooner than they otherwise would—triggering an increase in direct spending for retirement benefits of about $1 million over the 2012-2016 period. CBO also expects that those employees would receive slightly smaller retirement benefits than expected under current law; over the 2012-2021 period, the net change in direct spending would not be significant.
However, CBO estimates that any net increase in direct spending under the bill over the 2011-2021 period would be negligible because early retirees would receive smaller retirement benefits than they would under current law. Enacting H.R. 672 would have no significant effect on revenues.