Congress will move closer to giving the Election Assistance Commission a full quorum of members today, when the Senate Rules Committee holds a confirmation hearing for President Donald Trump’s two EAC nominees, Donald Palmer and Benjamin Hovland. The tiny federal agency, which plays a key role in mediating conversations between state election officials and federal agencies like DHS, currently only has two members, and it needs three to vote on major policy decisions. It has lacked a quorum since March 23, when Matt Masterson, its former chairman, left following the expiration of his term and joined DHS. That lack of a quorum has threatened progress on a major EAC priority, the 2.0 update to its Voluntary Voting System Guidelines, which many states adopt as their voting system regulations. In a statement to MC, Senate Rules Chairman Roy Blunt touted the EAC’s role in securing elections and highlighted the commission’s lack of a quorum. “I look forward to hearing more from the nominees about how they would strengthen that partnership, in terms of information-sharing, technical assistance, and best practices, so the American people can be assured that election outcomes accurately reflect what happened on Election Day,” he said.
Trump’s EAC nominees form a bipartisan pair. Palmer, a fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center and senior adviser to the EAC, formerly served as the top election official in Virginia and Florida and was a voting rights attorney at the Justice Department. Hovland is a senior counsel for the Senate Rules Committee’s Democratic staff. Both nominees are relatively uncontroversial, although Palmer faced criticism from voting rights activists for leading purges of Virginia’s voter rolls that relied on the notoriously flawed Crosscheck program spearheaded by outgoing Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
It’s unclear why the Rules Committee waited until now to hold a hearing on Trump’s nominees. The president nominated Palmer in July and Hovland in October. But now, the panel will convene at 2:30 p.m. to question Palmer and Hovland about their priorities if confirmed to the EAC. Expect questions about election security, especially from ranking member Amy Klobuchar, the chief Democratic cosponsor of the Secure Elections Act (S. 2593). “As we have seen in recent elections, we need to modernize our election infrastructure to make voting easier and to keep our elections secure,” Klobuchar told MC in a statement. “It is also important to have more commissioners serving on the EAC so they can update and modernize EAC guidance.”
Full Article: EAC finally nearing ability to take major action – POLITICO.