WASHINGTON – Committee on House Administration Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) today outlined concerns with H.R. 4990, the Election Technology Research Act of 2020 during debate on the House floor. Despite the significant impact this bill could have on federal election policy, H.R. 4990 was not considered by the Committee on House Administration, which has jurisdiction over federal elections.
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Davis noted two main concerns with H.R. 4990: first, the bill would weaken the independent, bipartisan commission that provides election assistance to states and give power to an agency that is not politically balanced. Second, the bill would slow any possibility of providing guidelines for non-voting equipment.
Davis spoke about these concerns on the House floor:
H.R. 4990 allocates over $100 million dollars across the next five years to National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in order to conduct election system research and distribute grants to higher-education and non-profits.
Funding expanded research at NIST, a non-regulatory agency of the Department of Commerce, would allow the agency to circumvent policy priorities set by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, a politically balanced agency.
This is especially concerning when we know there have already been calls for more transparency when it comes to the work that NIST does on behalf of the EAC. Currently, EAC Commissioners are not regularly updated on the projects they task NIST with – there is no timeline for completion and no reporting structure. H.R. 4990 further empowers NIST without proportional accountability to the EAC.
I’ve addressed this issue previously in my bill, H.R. 5707, Protect American Voters Act (PAVA) by calling for the election-related work of NIST to be more accessible and visible by directing them to issue a report to Congress every year containing the status, timeline, and estimated completion of activities they are tasked with under HAVA.
Additionally, H.R. 4990 would expand the voting system definition to include non-voting technology in the already-overwhelmed voluntary voting system guidelines (VVSG) process.
We’ve been waiting for updated HAVA guidelines, or VVSG 2.0, for over a decade now so while I absolutely believe guidelines for non-voting equipment, such as e-poll are needed, adding more to VVSG process is not going to get this done.
My bill, PAVA, addresses this by bypassing the costly and time-consuming VVSG process and calls for the EAC to establish a separate process for testing and certifying guidelines for non-voting election equipment.
Bottomline, H.R. 4990 does not update HAVA and allocates over a hundred million dollars to the discretion of NIST rather than investing in the bipartisan, independent government agency created by Congress that is well versed in elections. The EAC provides guidance, not mandates. Keeping power at the EAC preserves the states’ primary and constitutional role in administering federal elections.
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