Senate confirms commissioners to election agency, giving it full powers

The Senate late Wednesday confirmed by voice vote a pair of commissioners to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), giving the agency a quorum for the first time since last March.

Benjamin Hovland and Donald Palmer were among several nominees passed in the final hours of the Senate session. If they had not been confirmed before noon Thursday, when the 115th Congress adjourns, both nominees would have to go through the confirmation process again.

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Having a quorum means the EAC can now carry out major policy moves. The small federal agency — created in 2002 to help state and local officials administer elections — had only two commissioners since March, one short of the three needed to take on significant initiatives.

Hovland and Palmer said during their confirmation hearing last month that their likely first moves after joining the EAC would be to review its standards for voting machine vendors.

That statement was echoed by current EAC Commissioners Christy McCormick and Thomas Hicks during an interview with The Hill last month.

The EAC has faced criticism for not taking the threat of Russian interference in the 2016 election as seriously as some say it should, and Republican lawmakers have attempted to close down the small agency in previous years, claiming that it was unnecessary.

However, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have recently pointed to the commission as being able to help lead the charge in securing elections from outside interference.

Still, it may take some time before the commissioners are able to formally join the agency — the EAC is currently shuttered under the government shutdown, which entered its 13th day Thursday.