Congressional leadership’s failure to reach consensus on the commission has tangible consequences. Mark Robbins, the commission’s most recent general counsel, said it’s frustrating for remaining employees to work “without the necessary tools or even a blueprint.” Even worse, Robbins said, is that Congress instructed the commission to study specific issues and has yet to receive the findings.
“The policy shop was finishing up some of the studies that had been mandated by Congress, but staff has no one to present them to for adoption so they’re just sort of sitting on a shelf,” he said. “There are philosophical and budgetary reasons on both sides of the argument, but Congress really needs to focus on it and do one of those things instead of ignoring it and letting it whither away.”
The EAC continues to host roundtables and will once again compile a national report based on state-level data after the elections. But if the agency had leadership, it could play a larger role providing advice on “non-sexy” issues such as ballot design and proof-reading procedures, which could have prevented the situation in Palm Beach County, Hasen said.
Former Democratic Commissioner Ray Martinez, who now works for the Texas state Senate, said now that the Help America Vote Act funds have largely been distributed, it’s a good time to examine the commission’s future. But he doesn’t see that happening in Congress.
“In Texas we put our agencies up for sunset review every 10 to 12 years, and I think that’s a useful exercise,” Martinez said. “But what’s appropriate is for folks to come together and for Capitol Hill to have a sincere dialogue and not just retreat into partisan corners.”