House to vote on election commission

The House is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to repeal an election commission set up after the controversial 2000 presidential election.

Members plan to vote on H.R. 672, which would repeal the Election Assistance Commission. That commission was established in 2002 after confusion and controversy over ballots in Florida for presidential election between then-Vice President Al Gore and then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

The commission was set up under the Help America Vote Act approved in 2002. That law created the commission, which set voting guidelines for states, and to distribute funds to states that could be used to update voting equipment.

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Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), the sponsor of H.R. 672, says repealing the commission would save $14 million a year and that it can safely be repealed because the commission's work has been completed. He said that in 2010, the National Association of Secretaries of State renewed their request to repeal the EAC, which has "served its purpose."

"Nearly a decade after its creation, and years since it accomplished its primary objectives, the commission continues to operate with little benefit to election administration," Harper said.

Under the bill, any remaining duties of the EAC that are still needed would be transferred to the Federal Election Commission.

Harper's legislation is on the House suspension calendar, which means it will require two-thirds of voting members to approve the bill. Legislation is generally put on the suspension calendar when it is not controversial.

However, the bill is not entirely free of controversy. According to House staffers, all Democrats on the Committee on House Administration oppose it, and are expected to vote against the bill on the House floor. To be approved under a suspension of the rules, Republicans will likely need the support of more than 40 Democrats.

After high-profile disputes between the two parties, and tense battles between the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court over how to conduct a recount, the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 12, 2000, ruled that the latest vote total should stand. Bush took Florida by 537 votes, which also won him the White House -- 271 electoral votes to Gore's 266.

Part of the discussion that followed related to the use of outdated punch card and lever-based voting machines, which confused Florida recount efforts, particularly over how to read ballots that were not fully punched through. The so-called "hanging chad" controversy riled up both parties even more as voter intent was judged based on individual readings of the punch cards.

-- This story was updated at 3:09 p.m. to reflect Democratic opposition to the bill.