It looks like critics of an organization created to help avoid hanging-chad debacles and other voting issues are having their way, and the Election Assistance Commission seems to be turning into a zombie organization: still standing, but sapped of life.
And it’s just in time, of course, for the very event the organization was designed to handle — Election Day!
The EAC, created in response to the voting-system meltdown during the 2000 presidential election, is totally leaderless. All four commissioner spots are vacant, and it hasn’t had an executive director since last year.
The resignation of Tom Wilke from the job in late 2011 left the organization’s general counsel, Mark Robbins, holding the reins. But Robbins was confirmed for a position on the Merit Systems Protection Board this year.
While the group is still plugging away, it suspended the work of its Standards Board and Board of Advisors because no one actually has the authority to make decisions. “As the EAC works to meet its basic statutory responsibilities under significant budget reductions and the prospect of elimination, it would make little sense to spend money convening boards unable to engage in policy work,” Robbins wrote in a memo before he left.
The EAC hasn’t held a public meeting since 2011 — something it needs commissioners to do. And it can’t select an executive director without them, either. A spokesman responded to the Loop’s inquiries with an e-mail stating that “we are working to serve our mission according to the policies in place that were established earlier by the commissioners.”
The commission certifies elections systems and shares best practices of conducting elections, which are kind of a big deal this year, considering how tight many races are around the country this election cycle — raising the odds of lawsuits over voting procedures.
But the EAC’s critics say it has outlived its usefulness after distributing federal money to states to replace outdated voting equipment. And a Republican-backed bill to kill it outright passed the House.
And so word of the organization’s paralysis is welcome news in some quarters.
A zombie commission might be just what they want.