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The Phantom Commission

Congressional leaderships failure to reach consensus on the commission has tangible consequences. Mark Robbins, the commissions most recent general counsel, said its 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 theyre 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, its a good time to examine the commissions future. But he doesnt see that happening in Congress.

In Texas we put our agencies up for sunset review every 10 to 12 years, and I think thats a useful exercise, Martinez said. But whats appropriate is for folks to come together and for Capitol Hill to have a sincere dialogue and not just retreat into partisan corners.

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