Has election commission run its course?

An independent federal election commission intended to help states with their voting systems should be eliminated, members of a House of Representatives committee voted last week.

Created after the 2000 presidential election raised questions about fairness and honesty, the Election Assistance Commission is supposed to help states improve voting technology. As a result, punch-card voting machines are now history, thankfully; never again will “hanging chads” hold up a presidential election. (Less happily, the commission also got rid of our local lever-action voting machines, which we think were easier for voters than the current system.) Its mission also is to disseminate useful information to state elections officials.

Lawmakers who voted to do away with the commission said it is a waste of taxpayers’ money. That may well be true; it may have run its course. State elections officials should be consulted to settle the matter, however.

No doubt critics of the action will insist the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is trying to clear the way for vote fraud. That is nonsense, of course. State and local governments still have primary control over elections, and federal agencies that waste taxpayers’ money should not be allowed to cite their statutory missions as protection.

But questions still arose about the New York primary last April and the general election last fall. Many states have made major election changes such as automatic voter registration and voter ID laws, and others are considering them. Alleged Russian hacking and influence tactics raised concerns about election security. Members of Congress may want to consider whether a truly helpful federal program should be established to help states keep elections fair.

If so, though, it should primarily exist for advice and support rather than regulation. Our nation’s decentralized, localized, somewhat old-school election system is (so far) impossible to truly hack and should be retained.