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Last week, President Obama sent the Senate a new nominee for the vacant fourth seat on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, replacing Matthew Butler, his choice in November 2014. His choice, Kate Marshall, is a Democrat and former Nevada State Treasurer who was the party’s unsuccessful candidate for Secretary of State in 2014. Here’s her bio from the White House press release:

Kate Marshall has been a Principal at her own legal consulting firm, Marshall Legal Consulting, since 2015.  From 2015 to 2016, Ms. Marshall was the Executive Director of Opportunity Alliance Nevada.  She is the former Nevada State Treasurer where she served from 2007 to 2014.  From 2002 to 2006, she was a solo practitioner at the Law Offices of Kate Marshall.  Ms. Marshall served as Executive Director of Advanced Telecom Group, Inc. from 2000 to 2002 and was Senior Deputy Attorney General in the Nevada Attorney General’s Office from 1997 to 2000.  Ms. Marshall also worked in the Antitrust Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, first as a trial attorney in the San Francisco Field Office from 1990 to 1994, and then as a trial attorney for the Telecommunications Task Force from 1994 to 1997.  From 1983 to 1985, Ms. Marshall served as a teacher for the U.S. Peace Corps stationed in Kenya. Ms. Marshall received a B.A. and J.D. from University of California, Berkeley.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer has issued a statement calling on the Senate to move quickly on the nomination and restore the agency to full strength:

As a princip[al] sponsor of the 2002 Help America Vote Act, which established the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, I am pleased that the Administration has nominated Kate Marshall to fill the second Democratic seat on the EAC….

When the Senate confirmed the two Republicans and one Democrat who currently serve on the EAC in late 2014, there was an understanding and expectation that once a qualified individual was nominated to fill the second Democratic seat, the Senate would put politics aside and work expeditiously to confirm this nominee and bring the EAC up to full strength. As an attorney and public servant with a proven record of streamlining and improving election processes in Nevada,  Kate Marshall has the skills and experience to serve on the Commission. 

With a presidential election occurring in just a few months, it is critical that the EAC operate at full capacity as quickly as possible to help ensure every eligible American’s vote is cast – and counted – in November. While I am deeply disappointed we have not considered legislation to restore critical voting rights protections struck down by the Supreme Court  2013, I urge the Senate to take up Kate Marshall’s nomination quickly and confirm her to the EAC with the broad bipartisan support she deserves.

The Republican National Lawyers’ Association called the nomination President Obama’s “third strike,” noting Marshall’s lack of elections background and criticizing Democrats for “view[ing] the EAC [as] a place to reward partisans for their service to the liberal movement” and saying “[i]t is sad that the left has so little regard for election administration.” If and when Marshall’s nomination progresses in the Senate, don’t be surprised to hear similar views in committee or on the floor.

My sense, however, is that it likely won’t get that far; with an election year in full swing – and the EAC still in the partisan crosshairs for the ongoing battle over proof-of-citizenship instructions on the federal registration form – I don’t see much of an opening for progress unless Democrats are willing to somehow make this an issue and even then there’s no guarantee it will move the majority to act.

That said, I didn’t think the EAC would ever get new commissioners and – the proof-of-citizenship fight notwithstanding – they are making progress in other areas like voting system standards and hands-on guidance for election officials. I would be surprised, but pleasantly, if the Senate were to confirm Marshall and fill out the EAC.

Time will tell … stay tuned!