The League sent a letter to Senators urging them to oppose the termination of the Election Assistance Commission, the only federal agency that devotes its full resources to improving American elections.

November 2, 2011

TO: Members of the U.S. Senate

FROM: Elisabeth MacNamara, President

RE: Oppose Termination of the Election Assistance Commission

The League of Women Voters urges you to oppose efforts to terminate the Election Assistance Commission as part of the appropriations process. Instead of eliminating the EAC, we believe that Congress should strengthen the commission and expand its responsibilities. The League believes that elections are fundamental to a functioning democracy and that every effort should be made to elevate their administration to the highest importance. Congress should not turn its back on federal efforts to ensure election integrity, improve voter access to the polls, and improve election systems. The value of the EAC far outweighs its monetary costs; in fact, the costs of poorly run elections are intolerable. It is time for election administration to move into the 21st Century, not back toward the 19th.

Unfortunately, elections in our country are still not well-administered, and we are concerned that many states and localities are not doing a good job ensuring federally-protected voting rights. For example, a GAO report on the 2008 election said that there are significant problems for persons with disabilities in gaining access to the polls. Physical barriers remain in far too many cases. In fact, 31 states reported that ensuring polling place accessibility was “challenging.”

There are many other areas of election administration that cause concern, including statewide voter registration lists, provisional balloting, list cleaning, voting machines and tabulating, access to registration, and meeting voter information needs. In addition, there are critical questions that must be addressed about the application of new technologies like the Internet to the voting and registration processes. Each of these areas would benefit from additional study, data gathering and information sharing among election officials at every level, the public, and concerned organizations.

With these continuing problems, now is certainly not the time to abolish the only federal agency that devotes its full resources and attention to improving our elections. Let us not go back to the 2000 election but go forward, improving each election over the last. We know what needs to be done; now let us devote the resources to what should be done.

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