The Senate Did What?

Questionable EAC nominee confirmed yesterday with no hearing and no oversight, underscoring need for reform

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Senate confirmed last night by unanimous consent the nominations of Caroline Hunter and Rosemary Rodriguez to the Election Assistance Commission, approving the nominations without debate and without recorded roll call votes. The nomination of Hunter, a partisan operative with no experience in election administration, had been widely criticized by civil rights and voting rights advocacy groups.

The confirmations took place even though the Rules Committee had not yet considered the nominations, and no hearings were held. People For the American Way, which has made election reform the key priority in its 2007 legislative agenda, strongly criticized the lack of transparency in the confirmation process and called for additional oversight and reporting requirements for the EAC.

“We are deeply disappointed that the Senate did not take to heart its responsibility to provide open, transparent oversight of the EAC through this confirmation process,” said PFAW President Ralph G. Neas. “Confirming these nominees under the cover of night sends exactly the wrong message to millions of Americans who are counting on Congress to improve our nation’s election system. It’s too late to get these confirmations right, but it is not too late to improve oversight of the EAC. We will strongly support congressional efforts to enact additional EAC oversight and reporting requirements.”

Neas added that the lack of transparency was particularly significant in this case because the nomination of Hunter had been widely criticized, and because the EAC has suffered a series of stumbles in recent months. In particular, the EAC has been criticized by nonpartisan academics and commentators for failing to disclose its decreditation of Ciber Labs, which certifies election equipment used by two-thirds of the country, and for an extremely problematic change of course on a recent fraud and intimidation study it commissioned.

“Hearings are always important, but they are especially important when a nomination faces questions like the ones that were swirling around the nomination of Caroline Hunter,” Neas said. “We’re talking about putting a partisan political operative with no election administration experience in a position that could affect the outcome of the 2008 elections. It’s not like the EAC doesn’t have enough problems already. Hopefully this will serve as a teachable moment and will motivate members of Congress to enact comprehensive election reform.”

The EAC, which was created by the Help America Vote Act of 2002, is responsible for producing guidelines for the use of election technology, establishing recommended minimum election administration standards for states, and distributing funding to states to help them meet HAVA requirements.

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