Senate Action Puts Election Assistance Commission Back in Business

Common Cause Hails Important Victory for Democratic Process

Prodded by Common Cause and other election reform advocates, senators provided welcome assistance late Tuesday to dozens of states struggling to run their elections with outmoded, prone-to-breakdown voting machines.

Shortly before adjourning for the year, the Senate filled three vacancies on the four-member Election Assistance Commission (EAC), putting back into business a panel created to set national standards for voting equipment and fulfill other important election administration responsibilities. The commission has been without any members since 2011.

The new commissioners are Thomas Hicks, a former Common Cause staffer, Matthew Masterson, deputy chief of staff in the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, and Christy McCormick, a trial lawyer in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. Hicks’ nomination had been pending since 2010; Masterson and McCormick were nominated earlier this year.

“This is great news for the democratic process,” said Allegra Chapman, Common Cause’s director of voting and elections. “Earlier this year, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration warned us that the lack of a functioning EAC has brought the nation to the ‘brink of a crisis’ in voting technology.

“Voting machines, many of them more than a decade old, are breaking down at alarming rates and our states and localities need guidance in deciding how to replace them with modern, reliable equipment,” Chapman said. “That’s why Congress created the EAC in the first place.”

Without commissioners, the EAC was unable to have public meetings, adopt new policies, or issue advisory opinions. Its most recent voting system guidelines were adopted in 2005 – several lifetimes ago in the world of technology. The EAC’s dysfunction was a major factor in the machine breakdowns which plagued the 2012 election and forced hundreds of thousands of voters to wait in line for hours to cast their ballots.