Jessica Huseman for Votebeat:
Mitchell’s selection resulted from an unorthodox process by the Civil Rights commission, according to two people with direct knowledge of the process. In April, the commission changed the nominating procedures for members of the EAC advisory board, following Republican commissioners’ complaints that the two USCCR appointees were both Democrats — there previously was no requirement the nominations be bipartisan, and the USCCR’s appointees have often been Democrats. According to the transcript of the April meeting, commissioners determined that going forward the commissioners from each party would submit two candidates, and each would be allowed to veto one of the opposing party’s choices. Two Democrats, Nevada lawyer David Kladney and New York lawyer Debo P. Adegbile, voted against that change.
The two Republican nominations turned out to be Mitchell and Adams himself.
“The Progressive caucus ranked Ms. Mitchell slightly more suitable for a bipartisanship appointment,” Cantú wrote in a statement, saying it was her obligation as chair to advance the nomination. “Personally, I am not pleased with the appointment and would have welcomed another choice. ”
Cantú laid the blame for this appointment process, and the resulting uproar, at Adams’ feet. Mitchell was “more of an unknown variable” than Adams. Commission staff say Adams’ brash behavior and rank partisanship have gridlocked the committee for months, and the other conservatives on the commission have followed his lead.
Cantú said the conservatives previously had “blocked ratifying my appointment,” leaving the commission without a chair for three months. Cantú was approved in April, immediately after the commissioners approved the changes to the EAC appointment process. The commissioners felt their hands were tied when they approved Mitchell, Cantú said, because the conservatives made clear that relenting to one of the Republicans’ advisory board candidates was the only way to make progress on other business.
It’s unclear when the email discussion of Mitchell’s candidacy took place, or what specific objections, if any, commissioners raised. A commission spokesperson said details of that process had not been shared with her, and the USCCR has not yet responded to a Freedom of Information Act request for documents about their decision-making. In the August meeting, the eight commissioners took a final vote on the pair of appointments, with no discussions of Mitchell’s record or qualifications. She was mentioned by name only twice in the conversation before the roll call. One Democrat, Kladney, voted against the appointments. Yaki abstained, and Adegbile, joining Cantú, voted in favor. None responded to requests for an interview.
After Votebeat broke the news of Mitchell’s appointment Monday, the EAC and the USCCR appeared to scramble to respond, even though the vote had been held months before. The EAC put out a statement late Monday, distancing itself from the decision and explaining that it had no control over the appointments, without referring to Mitchell by name. The USCCR followed with a statement, saying that Mitchell had been selected from two possibilities presented by the commission’s Republican members.
Election administrators and across the country protested in public and reacted more angrily in private, and many were appalled that a person who’d baselessly denigrated their work would be given such a role. Many administrators called EAC commissioners and staff to demand an explanation. For their part, the EAC commissioners have chosen to stay silent about Mitchell’s appointment.