Two powerful Democrats are poised to urge President Obama to resuscitate a defunct federal panel created to help Americans vote. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) are preparing a resolution calling on the president to fill the vacancies on the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), Hoyer said Tuesday. The four-seat board has been empty for more than a year, largely because GOP leaders — wary of Washington’s role in state-run elections — have refused to recommend nominees to fill the spots, as current law dictates. That’s a mistake, Hoyer said, particularly in a political environment where an increasing number of states have made it tougher to vote in the name of fighting fraud. “The Election Assistance Commission was established to provide advice and council on best practices on elections. It has been allowed to atrophy, and the Republicans want to eliminate it,” Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol. “It’s interesting but disappointing.”
The EAC was created as part of the 2002 Help America Vote Act, which passed in response to the turmoil surrounding the presidential contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000. The legislation received broad bipartisan support in both the House (357-48) and the Senate (92-2) before Bush signed it into law.
Since then, however, the panel has been mired in charges of partisan politicking, and GOP leaders have declined to name any nominees to make the board operative. In 2011, Republicans passed legislation eliminating the EAC altogether. The Democratically controlled Senate never took up the bill.
Hoyer, Lewis and other supporters of reviving the board argue that recent efforts by some states to install tougher voting rules — including new voter ID and proof-of-citizenship requirements — make the EAC more necessary than ever. In June, Reps. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced legislation strengthening the panel, but without Republican backing, the proposal has no chance of passing the House.