Election Assistance Commission

The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is an independent agency of the United States government created by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). The Commission serves as a national clearinghouse and resource of information regarding election administration. It is charged with administering payments to states and developing guidance to meet HAVA requirements, adopting voluntary voting system guidelines, and accrediting voting system test laboratories and certifying voting equipment. It is also charged with developing and maintaining a national mail voter registration form.

Election Assistance Commission
Seal of the United States Election Assistance Commission.svg
Official seal
Logo United States Election Assistance Commission.svg
Official logo
Agency overview
Formed2002
JurisdictionUnited States of America
HeadquartersWashington, D.C.
Employees30 [1]
Annual budget$9.6 million (FY 2017)
Agency executive
Websitewww.eac.gov
Footnotes
[1][2]

ResponsibilitiesEdit

The EAC is tasked with performing a number of election-related duties including:[2]

  • creating and maintaining the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines
  • creating a national program for the testing, certification, and decertification of voting systems
  • maintaining the National Mail Voter Registration Form required by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA)
  • reporting to Congress every two years on the effects of the NVRA on elections
  • administering federal funds to States for HAVA requirements
  • administering federal funds for the development of innovative election technology, including pilot programs to test election technology
  • studying and reporting best practices of effective administration
  • communicating information on laws, technologies, procedures, studies, and data related to the administration of federal elections to those responsible for formulating or implementing election law and procedures, to the media, and to other interested persons

The HAVA requires the EAC will create voluntary guidelines for voting systems, maintaining a clearinghouse of information regarding election administration procedures including testing and certification of election equipment, and administering the Election Assistance and Help America Vote Programs.[citation needed]

HistoryEdit

In 2003, Congress appropriated US$1.5 billion for HAVA. The General Services Administration distributed most of the $650 million permitted under Title I of HAVA, and the remainder was earmarked for the EAC to disburse. The funds were not distributed because the commissioners were not confirmed until December 9, 2003; the law had required that they be in place by February 26, 2003.[citation needed] The initial Commissioners were:

  • DeForest Soaries Jr. (2003–2005)
  • Ray Martinez, III (2003–2006)
  • Paul S. DeGregorio (2003–2007)
  • Gracia Hillman (2003–2010).

In its 2004 budget, Congress again allocated $1.5 billion to fund HAVA. By January 2004, the EAC did not have permanent offices or budget, even though it was required to publish state election reform plans in the Federal Register before money for new voting equipment could be disbursed to the states.[citation needed]

On December 6, 2006 Caroline Hunter and Rosemary E. Rodriguez were nominated by President George W. Bush to replace Ray Martinez and Paul DeGregorio.[3] They were confirmed by the U.S. Senate on February 15, 2007.[4]

In 2010, the EAC lost its quorum of Commissioners, after the resignation or end of term of Hunter (2008), Rodriguez (2009) and Hillman (2010), preventing many normal operational duties; and was without any Commissioners by 2011 after the resignation of Davidson. Bills were subsequently drafted to end the Commission. Specifically, Representative Gregg Harper introduced a bill to windup the EAC and transfer some of its functions to the Federal Election Commission.[5]

The EAC did not regain a quorum until December 16, 2014, when the U.S. Senate confirmed three Commissioners, Thomas Hicks, Matthew V. Masterson, and Christy McCormick.[6] Masterson resigned in 2018; and on January 2, 2019, President Donald Trump's nominees, Benjamin Hovland and Donald Palmer, were confirmed by the US Senate,[7] and took office in February 2019.

Chair and commissionersEdit

The Help America Vote Act specifies that four commissioners are nominated by the President on recommendations from the majority and minority leadership in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. Once confirmed by the full Senate, commissioners may serve two consecutive terms and no more than two commissioners may belong to the same political party.

CommissionersEdit

On December 16, 2014, the U.S. Senate confirmed three Commissioners, Thomas Hicks, Matthew V. Masterson, and Christy A. McCormick.[8] Masterson resigned in 2018.

Thomas Hicks served as the Senior Elections Counsel and Minority Elections Counsel on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on House Administration from 2003 to 2014, where he oversaw all Committee matters relating to Federal elections and campaign finance. Prior to that, he was a Policy Analyst for Common Cause, a non-profit, public advocacy organization working in support of election and campaign finance reform. He also previously served as a Special Assistant in the Office of Congressional Relations at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. He received his J.D. from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law and his B.A. in Government from Clark University (Worcester, MA).[8]

Christy A. McCormick served as a Senior Trial Attorney in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, a position she held from 2006 until this year. She was detailed by the Deputy Attorney General to be Senior Attorney Advisor and Acting Deputy Rule of Law Coordinator in the Office of the Rule of Law Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq from 2009 to 2010. From 2003 to 2006, she served as a Judicial Clerk to the Honorable Elizabeth A. McClanahan in the Court of Appeals of Virginia. She was an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant to the Solicitor General in the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia from 2001 to 2003. She was a Judicial Law Clerk in the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court of Virginia from 1999 to 2001. She received a B.A. from the University of Buffalo and a J.D. from the George Mason University School of Law.[8]

In February 2019, Benjamin Hovland and Donald Palmer took office, replacing Masterson and filling the other vacancy.

Former commissionersEdit

Former Commissioners include:

Paul S. DeGregorio a past chairman of the EAC. He was nominated by President Bush and confirmed by unanimous consent of the U.S. Senate on December 9, 2003. DeGregorio replaced the EAC's original Chairman, former Secretary of State of New Jersey DeForest Soaries. He had previously served as Vice Chairman. Prior to his service with the EAC Chairman DeGregorio served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), and was Director of Elections for St. Louis County, Missouri from 1985 to 1993.

Caroline Hunter[9] served as Deputy Director of Public Liaison for the White House and as Deputy Counsel of the Republican National Committee.

Rosemary Rodriguez[9] previously served on the Denver City Council of the City and County of Denver, District 3, Colorado.

Gracia Hillman served as EAC Chair in 2005[10] and is the former executive director of the League of Women Voters of the United States.

Donetta Davidson is a former Colorado Secretary of State and was the agency's 2007 chair.[11]

Gineen Bresso served as EAC Chair in 2009[12] and was the minority elections counsel for the Committee on House Administration prior to her appointment with EAC. She previously served as a policy advisor to former Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. where her primary area of focus was on election law.

Officers and staffEdit

Executive DirectorEdit

The current Executive Director of EAC is Mona Harrington, appointed to a four-year term in June 2020. She succeeded Brian Newby, who served a four-year term from October 2015 to October 2019. Newby succeeded Thomas R. Wilkey, the agency's first Executive Director, who resigned in November 2011. Prior to the EAC, Wilkey served a four-year term as the executive director of the New York State Board of Elections beginning in 2003. He worked 34 years in the field of election administration.[13] The executive director position was created by HAVA § 204(a).

General CounselEdit

The current General Counsel is Kevin Rayburn. The previous General Counsel was Clifford Tatum, who served a four-year term (October 2015 to October 2019). The agency's first General Counsel, serving under the Executive Director, was Juliet E. Thompson.[14] She previously held the position of Associate General Counsel at the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, and General Counsel of the Louisiana Department of Elections and Registration.

Inspector GeneralEdit

The current Inspector General is Brianna Schletz. The Office of the Inspector General is tasked with detecting and preventing fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement of EAC programs, regularly performing audits and evaluations.

Standards BoardEdit

The EAC Standards Board was established under title II section 211 of HAVA. Its duties include reviewing the voluntary voting systems guidelines and review of the best practices recommendations. The Board consists of 110 members, 55 State election officials and 55 local election officials. The Board adopts resolutions and makes recommendations by simple majority vote.[15](see a full list of Standards Board members)

The Executive Board includes 9 members: Mark Goins, Chair, Coordinator of Elections, Tennessee Division of Elections; Edgardo Cortes, Vice-Chair, Commissioner Virginia Department of Elections; J. Bradley King, Secretary, Co-Director Indiana Division of Elections; Paul Lux, Supervisor of Elections Okaloosa County, Florida; Gary Poser, Director of Elections Minnesota Secretary of Jerry Schwarting, Auditor Mellette County, South Dakota; Reynaldo Valenzuela Jr., Assistant Director of Elections Maricopa County, Arizona; Genevieve Whitaker, Deputy Supervisor of Elections (Election System of the Virgin Islands) U.S. Virgin Islands, Sally Williams, Director, Election Liaison Division Michigan Bureau of Elections https://web.archive.org/web/20161223233620/https://www.eac.gov/assets/1/Documents/SB%20Executive%20Board%20Roster%204-29-16-final.pdf

Board of AdvisorsEdit

The EAC Board of Advisors was established under title II section 211 of HAVA. Like those of the Standards Board, the Board of Advisors' duties include reviewing the voluntary voting systems guidelines and review of the best practices recommendations. The Board consists of appointed members. Two members being appointed by each of the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Association of Secretaries of State, the National Association of State Election Directors, the National Association of Counties, the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials, and Clerks (NACRC), the United States Conference of Mayors, the Election Center, the International Association of County Recorders, Election Officials, and Treasurers (IACREOT), the United States Commission on Civil Rights, and the Architectural and Transportation Barrier Compliance Board. The Board also includes the chief of the Office of Public Integrity of the Department of Justice, the Chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, and the director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program of the Department of Defense. Further, the Board also includes four members representing professionals in the field of science and technology, one appointed by the Speaker and one by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, one appointed by the Majority Leader and one by the Minority Leader of the Senate. Of the eight final members of the Board, four members are appointed by the United States House Committee on House Administration and four members are appointed by the United States Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.[16] (see a full list of Advisory Board members)

Technical Guidelines Development CommitteeEdit

The Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) is tasked with assisting the EAC in drafting the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines.[17] The Committee membership consists of the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); 14 members appointed jointly by the EAC and the Director of NIST from the Standards Board, the Board of Advisors, the Architectural and Transportation Barrier, and the Access Board, a representative of American National Standards Institute (ANSI), a representative of the IEEE, two representatives of the NASED, and other individuals with technical and scientific expertise relating to voting systems and voting equipment.[17] (see a full list of TGDC members)

CriticismsEdit

Critics have contended that the EAC has responded positively to political pressure from the Republican Party and the Department of Justice. For example, the EAC is said to have overstated the problem of voter fraud, which is often cited by Republicans as a justification for restrictive measures that Democrats charge are intended to prevent qualified Democrats from voting. The EAC Chair denied that there was any political pressure.[18] Tova Wang, a consultant to the Commission, wrote a detailed account in The Washington Post about how her research and that of her Republican co-author had been disregarded or altered by the EAC, to produce a published report "that completely stood our own work on its head." The changes included exaggerating the purported voter fraud issue and omitting references to charges of voter intimidation lodged by Democrats, as well as removing all criticisms of the George W. Bush administration's Department of Justice that the report had incorporated.[19]

In 2009, the United States Office of Special Counsel issued a report that found that the EAC engaged in political discrimination in federal hiring against an attorney to fill the General Counsel position because he was a Republican.[20] The report was in response to a settlement between the attorney and the EAC, in which the attorney was paid an unspecified amount of money.[21][22]

In 2019, an article in Politico reported that Newby had been the subject of extensive criticism from within and without the agency since his hiring in 2015, culminating in multiple calls for his resignation from Democratic members of the House and the Senate.[23] Anonymous sources reported that Newby played a large role in many EAC staffers leaving, including the departure of Ryan Macias, the acting director of election testing and certification, as well as his predecessor, Brian Hancock. These departures "knocked the wind out of the technical sails of the EAC," said an anonymous voting security researcher.[23] Exacerbating the situation was the reporter's speculation of the partisan nature of Newby's hiring, with the article labeling him a Republican and the Commissioner who recommended his being hired, Christy McCormick, as well. In February 2016, Newby approved requests from three states to change state-specific instructions on the NVRA federal form related to proof of citizenship for voter registration. These states required proof of citizenship by state law, a controversial policy being pushed by conservative GOP members such as Kris Kobach of Kansas, that would be used in support of Donald Trump's widely discredited claim that millions of illegal votes had been cast in the 2016 presidential election and had denied Trump a majority in the popular vote. An injunction was placed on the changes by a US Appeals court, although the case remained with the US District Court.[23]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Kill the Election Assistance Commission?". Center for Public Integrity. December 12, 2013. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  2. ^ EAC Divisions, see HAVA Sections 202, 205 through 209, 221 through 222, 231, 241-247, 801 through 804, and 902 and at NVRA Section 9
  3. ^ Nominations and Withdrawals Sent to the Senate, Office of the Press Secretary, White House, (December 2006)
  4. ^ Whitener, Bryan; Layson, Jeannie (March 8, 2007). "Hunter and Rodriguez Join EAC". U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
  5. ^ Alex Knott (April 14, 2011). "Election Assistance Commission May Be Closing". Roll Call.
  6. ^ "OnPolitics - USA Today's politics blog". USA Today. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  7. ^ Commissioner Donald Palmer
  8. ^ a b c "Commissioners - US Election Assistance Commission". www.eac.gov. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  9. ^ a b Senate Congressional Record Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, February 15, 2007
  10. ^ "Former Commissioners - US Election Assistance Commission". www.eac.gov. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  11. ^ Davidson Assumes Chair Position at U.S. Election Assistance Commission Archived September 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, January 3, 2007
  12. ^ "About The US EAC - About U.S. EAC - US Election Assistance Commission". www.eac.gov. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  13. ^ "About The US EAC - About U.S. EAC - US Election Assistance Commission". www.eac.gov. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  14. ^ EAC taps Juliet Thompson for General Counsel Position Archived September 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, August 26, 2004
  15. ^ "Charter of the EAC Standards Board" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 29, 2016. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  16. ^ "Charter of the EAC Board of Advisors" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 29, 2016. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  17. ^ a b "Charter of the EAC Technical Guidelines and Development Committee" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 21, 2016. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  18. ^ Fessler, Pam (July 31, 2007). "Federal Panel on Voter Fraud Scrutinized". National Public Radio. Retrieved August 30, 2007.
  19. ^ Wang, Tova Andrea (August 30, 2007). "A Rigged Report on U.S. Voting?". The Washington Post. pp. A21.
  20. ^ Amanda Carpenter (December 3, 2009). "Election Assistance Commission nixes job to man because of GOP affiliation". The Washington Times.
  21. ^ "USE OF APPROPRIATED FUNDS TO SETTLE A CLAIM" (PDF). Election Assistance Commission Office of the Inspector General. September 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 20, 2011. Retrieved May 30, 2011.
  22. ^ "OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL SETTLES POLITICAL DISCRIMINATION CASE" (PDF). United States Office of Special Counsel. December 2, 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 28, 2011. Retrieved May 30, 2011.
  23. ^ a b c "Federal election official accused of undermining his own agency". Politico. June 15, 2019.

External linksEdit