These could be tumultuous times for the tiny federal agency called the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. In a mid-term election year in which the threat of Russian meddling in American balloting continues as front-page news, the 30-person staff in Silver Spring, Md., with its $9.2 million budget is forging ahead to help states and localities modernize voting equipment, recruit poll workers and make polling stations more accessible. Some Republican critics in Congress, however, have continued a years-old bid to defund the agency set up in 2002, calling it duplicative and proposing during this year’s continuing budget battle to move some functions to the Federal Election Commission.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., last month raised eyebrows when he declined to renominate Matthew Masterson, a five-year veteran of the body and Republican appointee who was due to rotate off as chairman. (The four-member independent commission, which has one vacancy, is split between Republicans and Democrats.) A Ryan spokeswoman called the personnel decision “routine” and reflecting a desire to “move in a different direction.”
But none of that dampens the enthusiasm of Thomas Hicks, the new chairman sworn in on Feb. 23 for a second stint at the helm. “We are gung-ho about moving forward, making sure that states have what they need in terms of information on cybersecurity and disability access,” he told Government Executive on Monday. “Who knows what the next threat will be?”