Committing to Fair Elections Means Strengthening the EAC, Not Scrapping It

Attacks on the Election Assistance Committee put voting rights further at risk

It seems that in 2017, open season has been declared on voting rights. Now, traditionally disenfranchised voters including Asian Americans are being caught in the cross hairs.

Baseless claims about “voter fraud” are a distraction from voter suppression

First, we’ve seen the president threaten to waste taxpayer dollars in search of a problem that doesn’t exist. Study after study has shown that there are no shady characters with sacks of ballots trying to sway our elections. In fact, raising doubts about “people voting illegally” distracts from the issue plaguing our elections: targeted voter suppression and discrimination. And we expect that any investigation from the current administration will only be used to make it harder for people to vote, particularly communities of color , immigrants, young voters, and other minority voter populations. This is the real threat to democracy and future elections.

Dismantling the body that monitors our elections won’t make them better

On the heels of this first attack comes a second attack, this time by way of Congress. Last week, the House Administration Committee voted 6–3 along party lines to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), an independent agency that plays a vital role in standardizing and modernizing how elections are administered. Such a move risks reducing the voting and civil rights of our citizens.

Congress created the Election Assistance Commission after the debacle of the 2000 presidential election to address serious problems with our elections and voting systems that can depress voter participation and turnout, such as long lines at polling stations, voting machines, and outdated voter registration procedures. The EAC helps to ensure the reliability and trustworthiness of our nation’s election systems through research, data collection, training and information-sharing among elected officials, the public, and interested organizations. The EAC is also the only agency equipped to address issues around hacking by outside entities. Without the EAC and its focus on improving the administration of elections, we undermine our ability as a democracy to ensure a fair, efficient, and accessible system of elections for all our voters.

The EAC has been a friend for Asian American communities

The Election Assistance Commission has been an especially important ally for Asian American voters through its efforts to develop language access tools that help voters with language needs in their efforts to be a part of American society. In response to the attempt to dismantle the EAC, Asian Americans Advancing Justice submitted a letter detailing the many reasons our community counts on the EAC.

Because nearly one third of Asian Americans have some difficulty communicating in English, in-language materials are essential in ensuring our community members can engage in the democratic process of voting. To that end, the EAC has developed glossaries of election terminology, voter’s guides to federal elections, and the National Mail Voter Registration Form, all of which are available in translated languages. The EAC glossaries are available in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese and contain almost 2,000 terms and phrases used in the administration of elections. The EAC’s voter’s guide is available in eleven languages: Cherokee, Chinese, Dakota, English, Japanese, Korean, Navajo, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Yupik, and is designed to help voters successfully navigate the federal elections process. Finally, the EAC has translated the National Mail Voter Registration form into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. These translated resources can help voters with language needs understand and engage in the political process.

The Election Assistance Committee is needed more today than ever

These attacks are the real fraud being perpetrated on voters across the country. Rather than working to improve our elections system, and making sure that every eligible voter has access to the ballot, our politicians are working to keep people — our people — from voting at every turn. The need for the EAC could not be more critical and now is the time to reaffirm our commitment to fair, efficient, and secure elections by strengthening it, not eliminating it. It is imperative that the Election Assistance Committee be allowed to continue to do its good work. This latest effort by Congress must be stopped.