Congress, President Must Staff Election Assistance Commission

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  • Dale Eisman

Congress and President Obama should work quickly to fully staff the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC), a 12-year-old bipartisan panel created to help states meet voluntary standards for administering elections, Common Cause said today.

“At a time when states are passing restrictive voting laws and making the voting process more difficult, we need four commissioners on the EAC to protect and strengthen the right to vote,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs.

All four seats on the commission currently are open. The President has nominated Thomas Hicks, a former Common Cause staff member now serving as senior elections counsel for the House Administration Committee, and Myrna Perez, senior counsel to the BrennanCenter for Justice, to fill two of those slots.

A Senate vote on Hicks and Perez would be “a good first step to revitalize this agency,” Hobert Flynn wrote in a letter to members of the Senate Rules Committee, which was scheduled to vote on the nominations today. “A fully functioning EAC is necessary to strengthen the voting process for all voters,” she added.

Common Cause urged senators to follow recommendations delivered last month by Obama’s Commission on Election Administration, which highlighted the need for a fully functioning EAC. The presidential panel included equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans; their ability to arrive at a consensus on politically-sensitive voting issues should serve as a model for senators.

The EAC vacancies figure prominently in attempts by the state of Arizona to require prospective voters to produce documents proving their citizenship. The Supreme Court ruled last year that the state’s authority to demand those documents is limited by federal law; the justices said Arizona could ask the EAC for an exemption that would allow states to impose additional documentation requirements however.

Arizona and Kansas currently are suing the EAC in federal court, challenging the commission staff’s refusal to approve new registration application forms.

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest, and accountable government that works for the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard.