Skip to content

Latest Stories

Top Stories

Trump budget would cut election agency but boost cybersecurity

President Trump's budget proposal delivered to the Capitol

President Trump's new budget proposal, which would cut spending for the EAC by 14 percent, was delivered the House Budget Committee on Monday.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Trump's proposed budget for next year includes a mix of good and bad news for those interested in democracy and elections.

The plan he unveiled Monday would cut spending 14 percent at the Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency tasked with making sure voting machines are reliable and therefore at the center of efforts to prevent foreign hacking. The $2 million reduction for the fiscal year starting in October would come just as the office is starting to recover after a long run of staffing and budget cuts.

At the same time, the budget calls for spending $1.1 billion on cybersecurity through the Department of Homeland Security. This would increase from 1,800 to more than 6,500 the number of network assessments the agency can conduct, including those of "state and local electoral systems," the budget proposal says.

And the budget of the Federal Election Commission, which oversees compliance with campaign finance laws by presidential and congressional candidates, would tick up 2.5 percent to $73.3 million under the Trump budget, about in line with expected inflation. Since September, however, the FEC has not been able to take any enforcement actions because there are not enough commissioners to constitute a quorum.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

The EAC is among dozens of domestic agencies and programs that would get reduced or altogether eliminated under Trump's $4.8 trillion election-year proposal, including an 8 percent cut at the Department of Education and a shrinking of the Environmental Protection Agency's current budget by more than a quarter.

The president's plan assumes the deficit will crest above $1 trillion this year but promises the federal books will be balanced 15 years from now, mainly thanks to optimistic assumptions about the economy mixed with cuts to social safety net programs and a reduced American presence overseas.

Having suffered from years of budget cuts and staff turnover, the EAC is just now trying to rebuild itself in the months leading up to the fall presidential election.

Congress nearly doubled the EAC budget to $15.2 million for this year, and over the past two years has approved $805 million in state grants to bolster the security of local election systems. The EAC administers those grants.

State election officials have said they need a steady stream of federal funding to keep up with the costs of maintaining and improving election equipment. But the Trump budget does not call for any additional grant funding for next year.

The budget is more a messaging document than anything else, however. Ultimately, Congress has the obligation to write the line-by-line spending plans for all the parts of the federal government where spending is discretionary. (Spending on Medicare, Social Security and interest on the debt are mandatory and not subject to the annual appropriations process.) In recent years, however, instead of passing individual bills that cover groupings of federal agencies, omnibus budget legislation covering the entire federal government has been worked out in negotiations between Capitol Hill leaders and the White House.

A deal last fall between Trump, the Democratic House of Representatives and the GOP Senate for two years of modest domestic spending increases would be essentially scrapped under Monday's budget.

Read More

Trump and Biden at the debate

Our political dysfunction was on display during the debate in the simple fact of the binary choice on stage: Trump vs Biden.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The debate, the political duopoly and the future of American democracy

Johnson is the executive director of the Election Reformers Network, a national nonpartisan organization advancing common-sense reforms to protect elections from polarization.

The talk is all about President Joe Biden’s recent debate performance, whether he’ll be replaced at the top of the ticket and what it all means for the very concerning likelihood of another Trump presidency. These are critical questions.

But Donald Trump is also a symptom of broader dysfunction in our political system. That dysfunction has two key sources: a toxic polarization that elevates cultural warfare over policymaking, and a set of rules that protects the major parties from competition and allows them too much control over elections. These rules entrench the major-party duopoly and preclude the emergence of any alternative political leadership, giving polarization in this country its increasingly existential character.

Keep ReadingShow less
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Voters should be able to take the measure of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., since he is poised to win millions of votes in November.

Andrew Lichtenstein/Getty Images

Kennedy should have been in the debate – and states need ranked voting

Richie is co-founder and senior advisor of FairVote.

CNN’s presidential debate coincided with a fresh batch of swing-state snapshots that make one thing perfectly clear: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. may be a longshot to be our 47th president and faces his own controversies, yet the 10 percent he’s often achieving in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and other battlegrounds could easily tilt the presidency.

Why did CNN keep him out with impossible-to-meet requirements? The performances, mistruths and misstatements by Joe Biden and Donald Trump would have shocked Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, who managed to debate seven times without any discussion of golf handicaps — a subject better fit for a “Grumpy Old Men” outtake than one of the year’s two scheduled debates.

Keep ReadingShow less
I Voted stickers

Veterans for All Voters advocates for election reforms that enable more people to participate in primaries.

BackyardProduction/Getty Images

Veterans are working to make democracy more representative

Proctor, a Navy veteran, is a volunteer with Veterans for All Voters.

Imagine this: A general election with no negative campaigning and four or five viable candidates (regardless of party affiliation) competing based on their own personal ideas and actions — not simply their level of obstruction or how well they demonize their opponents. In this reformed election process, the candidate with the best ideas and the broadest appeal will win. The result: The exhausted majority will finally be well-represented again.

Keep ReadingShow less
Person voting at a dropbox in Washington, D.C.

A bill moving through Congress would only allow U.S. citizens to vote in D.C. municipal eletions.

Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images

The battle over noncitizen voting in America's capital

Rogers is the “data wrangler” at BillTrack50. He previously worked on policy in several government departments.

Should you be allowed to vote if you aren’t an American citizen? Or according to the adage ‘No taxation without representation’, if you pay taxes should you get to choose the representatives who help spend those tax dollars? Those questions are at the heart of the debate over a bill to restrict voting to U.S. citizens.

Keep ReadingShow less
people walking through a polling place

Election workers monitor a little-used polling place in Sandy Springs, Ga., during the state's 2022 primary.

Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

What November election? Half of the U.S. House is already decided.

Troiano is the executive director ofUnite America, a philanthropic venture fund that invests in nonpartisan election reform to foster a more representative and functional government. He’s also the author of “The Primary Solution.”

Last month, Americans were treated to an embarrassing spectacle: Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas) tradingpersonal insults related to “fake eyelashes” and a “bleach blonde bad built butch body” during a late-night committee hearing. Some likened it to Bravo’s “Real Housewives” reality TV series, and wondered how it was possible that elected officials could act that way and still be elected to Congress by the voters.

The truth is, the vast majority of us don’t actually elect our House members — not even close. Less than 10 percent of voters in Crockett’s district participated in her 2024 Democratic primary, which all but guaranteed her re-election in the safe blue district. Greene ran unopposed in her GOP primary — meaning she was re-elected without needing to win a single vote. The nearly 600,000 voters in her overwhelmingly red district were denied any meaningful choice. Both contests were decided well before most voters participate in the general election.

Keep ReadingShow less