The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) may be one of the most beleaguered administrative agencies in the country, with many a Washington politician trying to axe it. If Keith Olbermann were running a “worst agency in the world” contest, the EAC might even get more votes than its sister agency, the ever-so-dysfunctional FEC (the Federal Election Commission). The EAC has been under attack from its inception – the National Association of Secretaries of State called for its destruction even before it was up and running. Two full years after the Help America Vote Act created the agency, the commission did not even have an office, let alone a mailing address or a phone number. The EAC’s first commissioners held their meetings in a local Starbucks. The EAC, however, has turned out to be the Bad News Bears. It had a rocky start, and still looks a bit ramshackle to the outside world, but, while almost no one was looking, the agency has initiated a major, positive shift in how American elections are run.
… In 2004, the Bad News Bears agency began asking the states for basic information on how they run their elections systems. The Pew Charitable Trusts used the EAC’s databank to build the Elections Performance Index, which ranks states based on how well they run elections. Thanks to Pew and the EAC, we can now, for the first time, benchmark state performance, track states’ progress over time, and tell which state policies are working and which aren’t. (Disclosure: in 2009, I published a book (The Democracy Index) proposing just such a tool).
We’re already reaping the rewards. The Pew Index numbers — mostly provided by the EAC – are lighting a fire under policymakers. Just days after the Index’s 2012 release, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted noted that one reason his state didn’t rank higher was its failure to keep up with other states in creating an online registration system and urged his legislature to take up the bill. Iowa is paying special attention to military and overseas balloting, which pushed its rankings down. Georgia insists that it’s going to do a better job on data collection in the future, and has modernized its voter registration system, in order to increase its score. The list goes on and on.
Full Article: ‘Bad News Bears’ of elections | TheHill.