Top Dem argues to keep commission that fights election hacks

Top Dem argues to keep commission that fights election hacks
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Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) penned an op-ed Thursday defending the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) against Republicans calling for it to be cut in their 2018 budget. 

Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, argued in the Huffington Post that there is "absolutely no justification for abolishing" the commission, which works to maintain national voter registration forms, certify voting machines and prevent election hacking.

"I was proud to be the lead Democratic sponsor of the bipartisan Help America Vote Act legislation that established the Election Assistance Commission and charged it with helping state and local election officials ensure free, fair, and safe elections," Hoyer wrote.

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"Never has the Election Assistance Commission’s work been more important than it is today, with Russia seeking to undermine our voting systems and those of other democracies," he continued. "The kind of interference seen in our most recent election may not have altered the outcome, but it raised serious questions about vulnerabilities, especially when it comes to cybersecurity."

The EAC, established in 2002, has been somewhat of a political football over the years, and even went from 2010 to 2014 without enough commissioners to operate.

Hoyer argues in his piece that the commission isn't a budgetary burden — costing no more than $10 million a year to operate — and that its testing services are used by all but three states. 

Beyond voting machines and registration forms, the EAC also provides informational pamphlets and distributes funds from the Help America Vote Act to increase voting accessibility and poll worker training.

The EAC is not the only federal agency offering support to states in elections. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has also offered cybersecurity testing and protection to help states during elections in the past. 

Then-DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson declared elections critical infrastructure, increasing the amount of assistance the department could provide, shortly after the 2016 election and following intelligence reports confirming that Russia attempted to meddle in the election results. 

“DHS continues to work with state and local election officials and offer our cybersecurity services, including cyber hygiene scans of internet-facing systems and onsite risk and vulnerability assessments State and local governments have already taken a number of steps to enhance the security of elections, and our efforts are intended to augment their efforts," a Homeland Security official said.

Without the EAC, voting machine security would conceivably be a part of the DHS's larger elections aid to states.