Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Election Assistance Commission Drama Restarts

On April 9, the Senate Rules Committee announced the Democratic nominees for the Election Assistance Commission have cleared the committee. The nominees, Thomas Hicks, currently the Senior Elections Counsel on the House Committee on Administration and Myrna Perez, Director of the Voting  Rights Project at the ultra-liberal Brennan Center for Justice,  will be placed on the Senate’s Executive Calendar for a vote. Mr. Hicks and Ms. Perez had their second nomination hearing in December in 2013. However, as Ranking Member Pat Roberts remarked in his opening statement there was one major difference this time—no Republican nominee.

The EAC, established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 was established to develop recommendations to meet HAVA requirements including improving election administration and administering a national clearinghouse on elections including shared practices.  This rudderless federal agency is supposed to have two Republican Commissioners and two Democratic Commissioners. However, the EAC has been without any Commissioners for over two years and without four commissioners for over four years. The Rules Committee, which is supposed to have jurisdiction over the EAC has never had an oversight hearing on the EAC. In addition, at past hearings for Commissioner nominees, the Rules Committee has consistently asked for hearings to examine the need for the Commission.  But, Instead of having a hearing on the need for the EAC and the millions of dollars in the federal budget it takes up every year, the Democrats keep offering nominees.

Although the Obama administration has offered these nominees for the Commission, Senator Roberts correctly pointed out their actions have shown they don’t even see much of a need for the EAC. Last year, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration was established by Executive order. The purpose of the PCEA was to “identify best practices in election administration and make recommendations to the voting experience.” Doesn’t this sound eerily familiar to the EAC’s purpose of improving election administration and administering a national clearinghouse on elections, including shared practices?

If the EAC is to exist, at least let it exist as a bi-partisan Commission as the statute intended.  Wait until Republican nominee counterparts are offered by the White House instead of stacking the Commission with two Democratic nominees—although two Commissioners would not make a quorum. As Ronald Reagan said, “nothing lasts longer than a temporary government program.”  

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