President Obama just announced two nominations for the U.S. Assistance Commission. Matthew Masterson and Christy McCormick are Republican-chosen nominees to join the two nominees from the Democrats, Thomas Hicks and Myrna Perez.
The EAC was created as part of the 2002 Help America Vote Act as a way of providing best practices and doling out voting machine money in the wake of the Florida 2000 debacle. The commission functions with two Democratic nominees and two Republican nominees.
As I explain in The Voting Wars, the EAC started out with some independent commissioners who looked like they were going to transcend partisan politics and get some stuff done. But then there was controversy over a voter id report, and pressure on Republican commissioners. The Commission then started deadlocking on party lines. Eventually, Republican commissioners then Democratic commissioners left the commission, and none have been confirmed since. Many Republicans have told me they considered the agency unnecessary and too biased toward Democrats, and House Republicans voted to defund the agency.
Until today the Democratic nominations were in abeyance. Perhaps the logjam was broken because Republicans realized that with the nuclear option Democrats were ready to nominate their two commissioners. Even though two commissioners could not vote on anything binding, it would give them a platform from which to speak.
What will be exceptionally interesting now, assuming we get all four commissioners on board, is what happens to the Kobach v. EAC litigation over whether Kansas and Arizona must accept voters who register with the EAC-approved federal form but do not provide documentary proof of citizenship as the states require. The EAC is pushing forward with its appeal (the states won in the lower court), but what happens if the four new commissioners deadlock on moving forward?
As Doug Chapin likes to say, “Stay Tuned.”
UPDATE: A reader reminds me that in the Kobach case there are also intervenors if a new EAC deadlocks.