It’s hard to make progress when you have both hands tied behind your back a third of the time. Voters want more secure and better functioning elections, and Congress can act right now to accomplish that. In the swirl of election security concerns, ballot design problems, and vote counting confusion, the Senate should take up the two pending nominees to the United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) before adjourning this month. The EAC is the federal government’s main arm for disseminating election administration information to state and local election officials. The Commission sets the guidelines for voting systems and certifies the machines that voters use to cast ballots. Commission staff collect and disseminate vital data about election administration, share best practices, facilitate outreach to language minority voters and those with disabilities, and much more.
Since the first four commissioners were confirmed on December 9, 2003, however, the EAC has only had a quorum (three commissioners) to take action 68 percent of the time. In fact, there has been a full complement of four commissioners for just 28 percent of the commission’s existence.
These somewhat rosy numbers belie the fact that the good old days of relatively consistent quorums ended back in 2011. Since the start of 2012—a period which includes attempts by foreign adversaries to infiltrate elections, the deterioration of machines purchased back in 2004, and rising distrust in the conduct of elections—the commission has had a quorum just 47 percent of the time. One of the Democratic seats on the Commission has been vacant for 3,566 days. It doesn’t have to be this way.