Chairperson Zoe Lofgren Opening Remarks at Oversight Hearing on the Election Assistance Commission
WASHINGTON, DC – Committee on House Administration Chairperson Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) issued the following statement at today’s hearing: “Oversight of the Election Assistance Commission.”
Committee on House Administration Chairperson Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.)
Opening Remarks: “Oversight of the Election Assistance Commission”
“It has been over eight years since this Committee held an oversight hearing on the EAC, and over these eight years the responsibilities, and more significantly, the challenges in election administration have evolved.
“The greatest change has been the introduction of a known election threat to our nation. In advance of the presidential elections in 2016, Russia conducted cyber operations to interfere in federal elections and to undermine public confidence in our American democracy.
“In response, last year Congress appropriated $380 million for the EAC to distribute to states to support equipment purchases and security enhancements. The EAC has done a commendable job of distributing those sorely needed funds to states quickly and efficiently. I was heartened to learn that states could begin collecting their grant money less than 30 days from the time the FY2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act was signed into law.
“But let’s be clear: that appropriation should be just a start, this Committee must act on legislation to secure our elections.
“For the first time in ten years, the EAC has its full complement of four Commissioners. With a quorum now in place since the addition of two new Commissioners, the Commission is poised for a fresh start. Because there is much work to do, we intend to keep you very busy.
“The Committee finds itself in a similar posture, with changes in leadership and membership. And I’m glad to sit next to our Ranking Member, Rodney Davis of Illinois, because Mr. Davis represents some of the good intentions of my colleagues across the aisle. We are no longer considering the termination of this agency and we both agree that threats to our election systems are important and deserve our attention.
“In the wake of irrefutable evidence of foreign interference in our elections, I am hopeful we can make progress on election security soon. There have been bipartisan statements in support of new election security measures and I am hopeful we can turn those statements into action, because this Committee should act.
“I am confident that we can produce a bipartisan election security initiative that will help our colleagues in the Senate see a way forward. In last week’s EAC oversight hearing in Senate Rules, Chairman Roy Blunt, our former colleague here in the House, explained that the Senate did not move forward on election security last year or this year because, I quote, “I think the Majority Leader is of the view that this debate reaches no conclusion…” The leaders of this Committee and the leaders of our national intelligence community have seen a clear conclusion: we must secure our elections and the buck must stop with us.
“As Senator Durbin pointed out last week about previous election interference, it was, I quote, “sweeping and systematic. And Illinois has evidence of it. They’re coming at us again, and they might not be alone in their efforts. And shame on us if as elected members of the Senate we can’t even bring the matter to the floor for a vote or a debate. […] [W]e have an obligation, more than anything, to make sure that the integrity of our elections in a democracy is protected.” And that’s the end of the quote. This Committee can pick up where our colleagues in Senate Rules left off, starting with the agency before us today—the agency focused on helping America vote.
“The EAC is under-resourced. The EAC operates with half the staff and half the budget it had just a decade ago. While resources have decreased, demands on the agency have increased.
“EAC funding has moved from a high of $25.1 million in FY2009 to a low of $9.2 million in FY2019. Similar challenges exist with respect to staff resources: Where the EAC had a staff of 49 in 2010, the 2019 staff members only 22, or less than half the size, of the 2010 staff. We understand that you cannot be asked to do so much with so little resources.
“However, our support for this agency means we must also be fair and firm. Accordingly, this oversight hearing - the first in eight years - will raise some profound challenges at the agency. And we expect forthright and honest answers.
“For this Committee to support the agency’s request of significantly increased resources, the witnesses before us must demonstrate that they acknowledge problems with the Commission that have been raised both publicly and privately. This Committee can only champion increased support for this agency if the agency holds up its end of the bargain—and that will mean addressing severe personnel and management challenges and righting the ship of what has appeared to be an occasionally hyper-partisan and dysfunctional enterprise.
“Commissioners must assure this Committee that increased support will mean proper management, visionary leadership, and effective and reliable technical expertise at the agency.
“Together, we aim to protect America’s most precious asset—her democracy. We believe in the good faith efforts and intentions of all of you here as Committee Members and witnesses and we’ll do our best to support you because of the gravity of your charge, but this means we will also demand the best of you, just as the American people demand the best of this nation. Our hope is that this oversight can provide a roadmap for necessary improvements and the tremendous gains that could be made by infusing the agency with new resources and new personnel. Ultimately, it is our shared goal to discuss how to fully equip this agency and to make sure you are prepared and battle-ready for 2020.”
“I look forward to your comments but before that I would recognize our Ranking Member from Illinois, Mr. Davis, for any comments he would like to make.”