Appoint Commissioners to Elections Panel

Washington, DC -- Major civil rights and voting rights organizations have called on President Obama to act quickly in appointing new commissioners to the Election Assistance Commission, which is charged with improving the administration of the nation’s elections. 

“We call on the President to step up to this challenge,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters of the United States.

“These essential positions have been empty for an unacceptably long time,” according to the groups, which make up the Voting Rights Task Force of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.   “Failing to appoint commissioners … risks reducing the voting and civil rights of our citizens -- rights for which many have given their lives,” they said. 

Due to two vacancies on the four-member commission, the EAC has been unable to take any official action since January.  One of those slots has been empty for nearly two years.   With one commissioner serving an expired term, the President must make three appointments, which will be subject to Senate confirmation.

“As we rapidly approach the 2012 elections, the EAC needs a full complement of commissioners,” the groups said.  Organizations joining the letter to the President include the American Association of People with Disabilities, Common Cause, Demos, Fair Elections Legal Network, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, League of Women Voters of the United States, National Urban League, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), Project Vote, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

“The Commission is charged with developing standards for voting systems, and this precedent-setting work has been recognized by nations around the world.  The EAC’s certification program is helping state and local governments to save money,” the organizations said in their letter.

“The Commission plays a major role in collecting accurate and comparable election data. With our nation’s complex and diversified election administration system, central data collection is essential if we are going to improve our citizens’ trust and confidence in election results,” they maintained.

“The EAC has played a central role in improving the accessibility of voting for the country’s more than 37 million voters with disabilities.  We still have a way to go … to make voting accessible.  The EAC’s leadership is essential to continuing the effort to offer all Americans the right to vote privately and independently,” the groups said.

“The Commission develops and fosters the training and organization of our nation’s more than 8,000 election administrators.  Through its many working committees and convening of robust dialog among advocates, manufacturers and administrators, the Commission is improving the administration of elections.  The EAC’s award-winning web page has become the ‘go to’ site for election administrators, advocates, and academics,” the letter said.

In urging the President to fulfill his responsibility to appoint commissioners, the organizations said that the “EAC does valuable work to ensure the reliability and trustworthiness of our nation’s election systems.”

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Membership in the League is open to men and women of all ages.