By Nancy Tobi, firstname.lastname@example.org
The democratic processes of the American Republic are based on decentralized power. Centralized power led to the American Revolution. Centralized power is the antithesis of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
1. Centralization of Executive Power-White House Control over Counting the Votes: Current legislative proposals , such as the Holt Bill (1) or Clinton's election reform bill (2), include extending beyond the existing expiry date the power and authority of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), establishing a Presidential Commission authorized to control the counting of votes in every election--federal, state, and local--in the nation.
2. Centralization of Executive Power-Crony Appointments: The potential for stacking of the EAC is evident in the scenario already played out under the current Administration. In early 2006, the Bush White House made numerous recess appointments (3), putting political appointees into positions of power and authority without any Congressional oversight or checks and balances. Of the eight recess appointments made on January 4, 2006, three were Commissioners to the Federal Election Commission. Two of those appointed Commissioners are known for their opposition to voting rights and clean elections. The third is a political crony of Senate Minority Leader Reid of Nevada. Bush's two latest appointees to the EAC, neither of whom has any election experience to speak of, were nonetheless confirmed by Congress without public hearing, follow the same pattern of crony appointments.(4)
3. Centralization of Executive Power-Regulatory Authority: Federal regulatory authority means the federal entity preempts state and local authorities. In the matter of elections, this becomes a Constitutional issue because the US Constitution wisely endowed the States with authority over election administration. This enforces decentralization of power, which is a foundational building block for American democratic processes. HAVA (5) created the EAC as an advisory commission with one exception: it was granted regulatory authority over the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The EAC has been steadily positioning and even suing (6) to assert its regulatory authority in other areas under its domain.
Even if it does not succeed through litigation, the EAC could, with the insertion of a single line of text in ANY congressional act, become regulatory. This is how the FEC gained regulatory powers. A regulatory EAC means that a Presidential Commission-potentially stacked with political cronies-would have legal decision making and enforcement power over the following areas, for every state in the nation:
- Which voting systems are approved for use in our elections
- Who counts the votes in every election
- How votes are counted in every election
- How recounts are administered and how their outcomes are determined
An editorial in the New York Times, entitled "Strong Arming the Vote" (August 3, 2006) (7) describes how the Department of Justice under the Bush Administration has been heavily involved in partisan ploys to negate necessary checks and balances in election practices.
Any legislation that makes permanent the EAC will establish a whole new arm of Executive power with dangerous authority to subvert the entire democratic process of elections that supports our system of government. It would result, in effect, in a bloodless coup.