Election Assistance Commission

The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is an independent agency of the United States government created by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). The Commission serves as a national clearinghouse and resource of information regarding election administration. It is charged with administering payments to states and developing guidance to meet HAVA requirements, adopting voluntary voting system guidelines, and accrediting voting system test laboratories and certifying voting equipment. It is also charged with developing and maintaining a national mail voter registration form.

Election Assistance Commission
Official seal
Agency overview
HeadquartersWashington, D.C.
Employees30 [1]
Annual budget$9.6 million (FY 2017)
Agency executive
  • Brian Newby, Executive Director [2]


The EAC is tasked with performing a number of election-related duties including:[3]

  • Creating and maintaining the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines
  • Creating a national program for the testing, certification, and decertification of voting systems
  • Maintaining the National Mail Voter Registration Form required by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA)
  • Reporting to Congress every two years on the effects of the NVRA on elections
  • Administering federal funds to States for HAVA requirements
  • Administering federal funds for the development of innovative election technology, including pilot programs to test election technology
  • Studying and reporting best practices of effective administration
  • Communicating information on laws, technologies, procedures, studies, and data related to the administration of federal elections to those responsible for formulating or implementing election law and procedures, to the media, and to other interested persons


The HAVA dictates the EAC will create voluntary guidelines for voting systems, maintaining a clearinghouse of information regarding election administration procedures including testing and certification of election equipment, and administering the Election Assistance and Help America Vote Programs.

In 2003, Congress appropriated US$1.5 billion for HAVA. The General Services Administration distributed most of the $650 million permitted under Title I of HAVA, but the remainder was earmarked for the EAC to disburse. The funds languished because the commissioners were not confirmed until December 9, 2003; the law had required that they be in place by February 26, 2003.

In its 2004 budget, Congress again allocated $1.5 billion to fund HAVA. By January 2004, the EAC had no permanent offices or budget, even though it was required to publish state election reform plans in the Federal Register before money for new voting equipment could be disbursed to the states.

In 2010, the EAC lost its quorum of Commissioners, preventing many normal operational duties, and bills were subsequently drafted to end the Commission. Specifically, United States Representative Gregg Harper introduced a bill to end the EAC and transfer some of its authority to the Federal Election Commission.[4]

On December 16, 2014, the U.S. Senate confirmed three Commissioners (Thomas Hicks, Matthew V. Masterson, and Christy McCormick), giving the EAC back the quorum of Commissioners it needs to operate.[5]

In June 2019, Politico wrote an article citing seven sources. Politico reported that EAC executive director Brian Newby almost immediately lost the trust of EAC employees and resulted in a staff exodus after he "blocked important work on election security, micromanaged employees’ interactions with partners outside the agency and routinely ignored staff questions". The chairwoman of the EAC, Christy McCormick, a Republican, has defended and regularly lauded Newby, while also arguing that the EAC cannot search for a replacement for Newby before he leaves the post in November 2019 at the end of his term.[6]

Chair and commissioners

The Help America Vote Act specifies that four commissioners are nominated by the President on recommendations from the majority and minority leadership in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. Once confirmed by the full Senate, commissioners may serve two consecutive terms and no more than two commissioners may belong to the same political party.


On December 16, 2014, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to confirm EAC nominees Thomas Hicks, Matthew V. Masterson, and Christy A. McCormick as members of the commission.[7] One vacancy remains on the four-member commission.

Thomas Hicks served as the Senior Elections Counsel and Minority Elections Counsel on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on House Administration from 2003 to 2014, where he oversaw all Committee matters relating to Federal elections and campaign finance. Prior to that, he was a Policy Analyst for Common Cause, a non-profit, public advocacy organization working in support of election and campaign finance reform. He also previously served as a Special Assistant in the Office of Congressional Relations at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. He received his J.D. from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law and his B.A. in Government from Clark University (Worcester, MA).[7]

Matthew V. Masterson served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Chief Information Officer for the Ohio Secretary of State until this year. He previously served as Deputy Director of Elections from 2011 to 2013. He held multiple roles at EAC from 2006 to 2011, including Deputy Director for the Testing and Certification Division, Attorney and Advisor, and Special Assistant and Counsel to Chair Paul DeGregorio. He received a B.S. and a B.A. from Miami University and a J.D. from the University of Dayton School of Law.[7]

Christy A. McCormick served as a Senior Trial Attorney in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, a position she held from 2006 until this year. She was detailed by the Deputy Attorney General to be Senior Attorney Advisor and Acting Deputy Rule of Law Coordinator in the Office of the Rule of Law Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq from 2009 to 2010. From 2003 to 2006, she served as a Judicial Clerk to the Honorable Elizabeth A. McClanahan in the Court of Appeals of Virginia. She was an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant to the Solicitor General in the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia from 2001 to 2003. She was a Judicial Law Clerk in the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court of Virginia from 1999 to 2001. She received a B.A. from the University of Buffalo and a J.D. from the George Mason University School of Law.[7]

Former Commissioners

Former Commissioners include: DeForest Soaries, Jr. (2003–2005); Ray Martinez, III (2003–2006); Paul S. DeGregorio (2003–2007); Caroline Hunter (2007–2008); Rosemary E. Rodriguez (2007–2009); Gracia Hillman (2003-2010); Donetta Davidson (2005-2011); Gineen Bresso (2008-2011).

Paul S. DeGregorio a past chairman of the EAC. He was nominated by President Bush and confirmed by unanimous consent of the U.S. Senate on December 9, 2003. DeGregorio replaced the EAC's original Chairman, former Secretary of State of New Jersey DeForest Soaries. He had previously served as Vice Chairman. Prior to his service with the EAC Chairman DeGregorio served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), and was Director of Elections for St. Louis County, Missouri from 1985 to 1993.

Commissioner Caroline Hunter [8] who served as Deputy Director of Public Liaison for the White House and as Deputy Counsel of the Republican National Committee.

Commissioner Rodriguez[8] previously served on the Denver City Council of the City and County of Denver, District 3, Colorado.

Gracia Hillman served as EAC Chair in 2005[9] and is the former executive director of the League of Women Voters of the United States.

Donetta Davidson is a former Colorado Secretary of State and was the agency's 2007 chair.[10]

Gineen Bresso served as EAC Chair in 2009[11] and was the minority elections counsel for the Committee on House Administration prior to her appointment with EAC. She previously served as a policy advisor to former Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. where her primary area of focus was on election law.

Officers and staff

Executive Director

The Executive Director position is held by Brian Newby. The previous Executive Director was Thomas R. Wilkey, who resigned in November 2011. Prior to the EAC, Mr. Wilkey served a four-year term as the executive director of the New York State Board of Elections beginning in 2003. He worked 34 years in the field of election administration.[12] The executive director position was created by HAVA § 204(a).

General Counsel

The current General Counsel is Cliff Tatum. The agency's first General Counsel, serving under the Executive Director, was Juliet E. Thompson.[13] She previously held the position of Associate General Counsel at the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, and General Counsel of the Louisiana Department of Elections and Registration.

Inspector General

The current Inspector General is Patricia Layfield. The Office of the Inspector General is tasked with detecting and preventing fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement of EAC programs, regularly performing audits and evaluations.

Standards Board

The EAC Standards Board was established under title II section 211 of HAVA. Its duties include reviewing the voluntary voting systems guidelines and review of the best practices recommendations. The Board consists of 110 members, 55 State election officials and 55 local election officials. The Board adopts resolutions and makes recommendations by simple majority vote.[14](see a full list of Standards Board members)

The Executive Board includes 9 members: Mark Goins, Chair, Coordinator of Elections, Tennessee Division of Elections; Edgardo Cortes, Vice-Chair, Commissioner Virginia Department of Elections; J. Bradley King, Secretary, Co-Director Indiana Division of Elections; Paul Lux, Supervisor of Elections Okaloosa County, Florida; Gary Poser, Director of Elections Minnesota Secretary of Jerry Schwarting, Auditor Mellette County, South Dakota; Reynaldo Valenzuela, Jr., Assistant Director of Elections Maricopa County, Arizona; Genevieve Whitaker, Deputy Supervisor of Elections (Election System of the Virgin Islands) U.S. Virgin Islands, Sally Williams, Director, Election Liaison Division Michigan Bureau of Elections https://web.archive.org/web/20161223233620/https://www.eac.gov/assets/1/Documents/SB%20Executive%20Board%20Roster%204-29-16-final.pdf

Board of Advisors

The EAC Board of Advisors was established under title II section 211 of HAVA. Like those of the Standards Board, the Board of Advisors' duties include reviewing the voluntary voting systems guidelines and review of the best practices recommendations. The Board consists of appointed members. Two members being appointed by each of the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Association of Secretaries of State, the National Association of State Election Directors, the National Association of Counties, the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials, and Clerks (NACRC), the United States Conference of Mayors, the Election Center, the International Association of County Recorders, Election Officials, and Treasurers (IACREOT), the United States Commission on Civil Rights, and the Architectural and Transportation Barrier Compliance Board. The Board also includes the chief of the Office of Public Integrity of the Department of Justice, the Chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, and the director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program of the Department of Defense. Further, the Board also includes four members representing professionals in the field of science and technology, one appointed by the Speaker and one by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, one appointed by the Majority Leader and one by the Minority Leader of the Senate. Of the eight final members of the Board, four members are appointed by the United States House Committee on House Administration and four members are appointed by the United States Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.[15] (see a full list of Advisory Board members)

Technical Guidelines Development Committee

The Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) is tasked with assisting the EAC in drafting the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines.[16] The Committee membership consists of the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); 14 members appointed jointly by the EAC and the Director of NIST from the Standards Board, the Board of Advisors, the Architectural and Transportation Barrier, and the Access Board, a representative of American National Standards Institute (ANSI), a representative of the IEEE, two representatives of the NASED, and other individuals with technical and scientific expertise relating to voting systems and voting equipment.[16] (see a full list of TGDC members)


Critics have contended that the EAC has responded positively to political pressure from the Republican Party and the Department of Justice. For example, the EAC is said to have overstated the problem of voter fraud, which is often cited by Republicans as a justification for restrictive measures that Democrats charge are intended to prevent qualified Democrats from voting. The EAC Chair denied that there was any political pressure.[17] Tova Wang, a consultant to the Commission, wrote a detailed account in The Washington Post about how her research and that of her Republican co-author had been disregarded or altered, to produce a published report "that completely stood our own work on its head." The changes included playing up the voter fraud issue and omitting references to charges of voter intimidation lodged by Democrats, as well as removing all criticisms of the Department of Justice.[18]

In 2009, the United States Office of Special Counsel issued a report that found that the EAC engaged in political discrimination in federal hiring against an attorney to fill the General Counsel position because he was a Republican.[19] The report was in response to a settlement between the attorney and the EAC, in which the attorney was paid an unspecified amount of money.[20][21]

In 2019, an in-depth journalistic investigation conducted by Politico found that the EAC's Executive Director, Brian Newby, had been the subject of extensive criticism from within and without the agency since his hiring in 2015, culminating in multiple calls for his resignation from members of Congress and EAC staffers. [22] Sources reported that Newby's behavior played a large role in many skilled EAC staffers leaving, including the departure of Ryan Macias, the acting director of election testing and certification, as well as his predecessor, Brian Hancock. These departures “knocked the wind out of the technical sails of the EAC,” said a voting security researcher.[23] Exacerbating the situation was the partisan nature of Newby's hiring, as he is a Republican and the Commissioner who recommended his being hire, Christy McCormick, is as well. In February 2016, Newby approved requests from several states requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration. This was the controversial policy being pushed by conservative GOP members like Kris Kobach of Kansas, that would be used in support of Donald Trump's widely discredited claim that millions of illegal votes had been cast in the 2016 presidential election and had denied Trump the popular vote. The decision was later overturned by an appeals court.[24]

See also


  1. "Kill the Election Assistance Commission?". Center for Public Integrity. December 12, 2013. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  2. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on May 18, 2016. Retrieved April 26, 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. EAC Divisions, see HAVA Sections 202, 205 through 209, 221 through 222, 231, 241-247, 801 through 804, and 902 and at NVRA Section 9
  4. Alex Knott (April 14, 2011). "Election Assistance Commission May Be Closing". Roll Call.
  5. "OnPolitics - USA TODAY's politics blog". USA TODAY. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  6. Geller, Eric. "Federal election official accused of undermining his own agency". Politico. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  7. "Commissioners - US Election Assistance Commission". www.eac.gov. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  8. Senate Congressional Record Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, February 15, 2007
  9. "Former Commissioners - US Election Assistance Commission". www.eac.gov. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  10. Davidson Assumes Chair Position at U.S. Election Assistance Commission Archived September 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, January 3, 2007
  11. "About The US EAC - About U.S. EAC - US Election Assistance Commission". www.eac.gov. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  12. "About The US EAC - About U.S. EAC - US Election Assistance Commission". www.eac.gov. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  13. EAC taps Juliet Thompson for General Counsel Position Archived September 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, August 26, 2004
  14. "Charter of the EAC Standards Board" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 29, 2016. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  15. "Charter of the EAC Board of Advisors" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 29, 2016. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  16. "Charter of the EAC Technical Guidelines and Development Committee" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 21, 2016. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  17. Fessler, Pam (July 31, 2007). "Federal Panel on Voter Fraud Scrutinized". National Public Radio. Retrieved August 30, 2007.
  18. Wang, Tova Andrea (August 30, 2007). "A Rigged Report on U.S. Voting?". The Washington Post. pp. A21.
  19. Amanda Carpenter (December 3, 2009). "Election Assistance Commission nixes job to man because of GOP affiliation". Washington Times.
  20. "USE OF APPROPRIATED FUNDS TO SETTLE A CLAIM" (PDF). Election Assistance Commission Office of the Inspector General. September 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 20, 2011. Retrieved May 30, 2011.
  21. "OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL SETTLES POLITICAL DISCRIMINATION CASE" (PDF). United States Office of Special Counsel. December 2, 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 28, 2011. Retrieved May 30, 2011.
  22. "Federal election official accused of undermining his own agency". Politico. June 15, 2019.
  23. "Federal election official accused of undermining his own agency". Politico. June 15, 2019.
  24. "Federal election official accused of undermining his own agency". Politico. June 15, 2019.
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