As local officials gear up for a national election where razor-thin margins could tip the balance of power, the federal agency established after the Florida ballot disaster of 2000 to ensure that every vote gets counted is leaderless and adrift. There are supposed to be four commissioners on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), but right now there are none. The last executive director resigned in November, and the commissioners must vote to appoint a new one. President Barack Obama nominated two new Democratic commissioners last year, but congressional Republicans are trying to defund the agency entirely — which means for now no Republican nominations and no confirmation of the Democrats’ candidates. “If it is still as toothless by November 6 as it is today, I would have every expectation that things will fall through the cracks,” said Estelle H. Rogers, legislative director at Project VOTE, a nonpartisan group that supports voting accessibility. Rogers said the EAC has provided important assistance to local officials with respect to registration forms, poll worker training and issue alerts. “It is kind of disgraceful that we’re headed into a major election and the only federal agency that’s devoted to election administration has zero commissioners,” said Lawrence Norden, a lawyer at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.
The commission’s staff continues to serve as a clearinghouse for information to the public and election officials, and tests and certifies voting machines, but is limited in what it can do going forward. Without commissioners, the EAC can’t adopt new policies, issue formal advisory opinions or update regulations. Norden said he worries that there are no federal standards for the next generation of voting machines. “We’re still working off a standard that was developed in 2005,” he said.
Norden also criticized Republican attempts to get rid of the agency, saying that with more than 5,000 election jurisdictions, it’s important to have a federal clearinghouse for voting system problems. Opponents of the EAC act as if the Florida ballot-counting problems were ancient history, said Norden. “But it’s like yesterday that we decided we needed this agency because of all these problems. It’s amazing to me.”
Full Article: Federal Voting Commissioners AWOL As Election Approaches.