WASHINGTON - Today, the Committee on House Administration held a hearingtitled, "American Confidence in Elections: The Role of the Election Assistance Commission in Free, Fair, and Secure Elections."

Commissioner Christy McCormick - Chairwoman, U.S. Election Assistance Commission
Commissioner Benjamin W. Hovland - Vice Chair, U.S. Election Assistance Commission
Commissioner Donald L. Palmer - U.S. Election Assistance Commission
Commissioner Thomas Hicks - U.S. Election Assistance Commission
The Honorable Brianna Schletz - U.S. Election Assistance Commission Inspector General

In case you missed it, here are the top takeaways:

1. The Election Assistance Commission (EAC)'s unchecked growth has resulted in federal grants potentially being misused by some states like California in the 2020 election cycle.

Chairman Bryan Steil (WI-01): "Chairman McCormick, you submitted a response to that report two weeks ago stating that you were pleased that the California audit recommendations have all been resolved and closed. The audit was conducted because California awarded a $35 million dollar contract, through an expedited process, to Joe Biden's main election advisory firm. This doesn't inspire confidence that our funds EAC has responsibility over are being properly used. And relating to the funds, the EAC budget five years ago was nine million dollars, in 2024 budget requests asked for almost $34 million, roughly a $25 million dollar increase from just five years ago and an almost 300% increase in funds. Commissioner McCormick, has the EAC's jurisdiction increased since its creation under HAVA?"

McCormick: "Only by the addition of the Northern Mariana Islands... We were also concerned about the California contract between SKD Knickerbocker and the California Secretary of State's office. In fact, we received several letters from this committee and we also asked our inspector general to look into that contract because of the concern of the inappropriate use of HAVA funds for get-out-the-vote and voter registration activities." 

Rep. Steil: "If we look at the website, SKD Knickerbocker, I mean this wasn't overly complicated. You go to their website and it's 'Joe Biden for President. SKD is proud to be a part of Team Biden.' They're taking $35 million dollars of federal taxpayer money to run an election. They run an expedited grant process and the grant process can't be for get-out-the-vote, it has to be to properly administer their elections, and they gave $35 million dollars of federal taxpayer money to someone that's a 'Proud member of Team Biden.' And it's expected that the American people should have confidence that there's not political gamesmanship in this grant?"

McCormick: "We agree with you Congressman, that is not an appropriate use of HAVA funds."
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2. The EAC lacks consistency in how it allows states to use funds.

Representative Barry Loudermilk (GA-15): "Last year in 2022, the EAC received $75 million in election security grants. In 2024, the EAC has requested $300 million in election security grants. By my calculation, that's about a 300 percent increase... What are these going for and can you explain such a massive increase?"

McCormick: "The EAC itself is not requesting that money for our operations. We constantly hear from States and localities of the need for additional funding, and part of that is they are in the process of purchasing new and updated voting equipment..."

Rep. Loudermilk: "How are you going to ensure that the grants are distributed and used properly?"

McCormick: "There is a distribution formula that we have to follow, so we make sure our grants team follows all the federal rules on grant-making..."

Rep. Loudermilk: "If there was a suspicion that grants were not used properly, what measures do you take to investigate that?"

McCormick: "Well the Inspector General is the person who investigated whether funds were used appropriately or not, and then it can mean that that money can be repaid into the federal treasury if it is found to be used inappropriately."
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3. Oversight of the EAC is necessary to ensure transparency and confidence in our elections system.

Representative Mike Carey (OH-15): Are there any steps the EAC should be taking that they are not taking in response to your audits? ... Could you maybe elaborate on what you think there could be improvement?

Schultz: "We've noticed that there could be opportunities for capacity building, specifically we saw that with the Northern Mariana Islands. They just didn't have the internal controls in place in order to receive those funds. They received them for the first time in 2020, so I think that's an area for improvement. Additionally, we've identified findings where the record, the federal financial reports that are required to be submitted, don't reconcile to the general ledger. That's an area where EAC oversight, you know getting those federal reports, they could be checking things like that."
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Representative Laurel Lee (FL-15): "You just touched on another thing that that I think is so important and that is opportunities for the public to be engaged and to observe both in the development of new standards and also the testing of equipment and these pre and post-election audits that occur. Would you share with us, and I know you have multiple forms of experience that are relevant to this question both as an EAC commissioner and as a former State elections director, share with us, if you will, some of the opportunities for the public to be a participant or an observer in the development of new technology standards and also the testing of this equipment?"
Palmer: "Well the public had a large role in the development of these standards... When we would have hearings with our advisory boards made up of election officials and experts, the public was often available for public comment. And then when you go to any state, for example, we were in Louisiana, Commissioner Hicks and I on their discussions on new voting systems and they would bring in the EAC and other experts to talk about what the standards would mean, what were the new security standards, what are the new audit standards, and the public was there to make comment and to hear that testimony including legislators and Congressmen."
Click the image or here to view Representative Lee's full Q&A.