Federal Election Commission: Membership and Policymaking Quorum, In Brief

Federal Election Commission: Membership and Policymaking Quorum, In Brief. Congressional Research Service. R. Sam Garrett.  Updated September 5, 2019

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is the nation’s civil campaign finance regulator. The agency ensures that campaign fundraising and spending is publicly reported; that those regulated by the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and by commission regulations comply and have access to guidance; and that publicly financed presidential campaigns receive funding.  As of August 31, 2019, the Federal Election Commission is operating without a policymaking quorum. FECA requires that at least four of six commissioners agree to undertake many of the agency’s key policymaking duties. As of August 31, 2019, three of six commissioners remain in office, after the fourth remaining commissioner resigned. Also as of this writing, one commission nomination is pending in the Senate.  This CRS report briefly explains the kinds of actions that FECA precludes when a quorum is not possible because fewer than four FEC members are in office. This episode marks the second quorum loss in the agency’s history—the first occurred for six months in 2008—leaving the commission unable to hold hearings, issue rules, and enforce campaign finance law and regulation. The agency remains open for business with remaining commissioners and regular staff, but new policy decisions and enforcement actions cannot be advanced or finalized.

[PDF format, 11 pages].

States of Change: How Demographic Change is Transforming the Republican and Democratic Parties

States of Change: How Demographic Change is Transforming the Republican and Democratic Parties. Brookings Institution. Rob Griffin, William H. Frey, and Ruy Teixeira. July 1, 2019

Demographics are not destiny, but steady and predictable changes to the electorate play an important role in defining the landscape of American politics. Most demographic groups have a political lean, so a group increasing or decreasing in size over time will tend to benefit one party or type of politics over another. The most well-known example is the growth of the nonwhite population in the United States, which—since nonwhites tend to lean heavily Democratic—is typically viewed as tilting the electoral terrain somewhat toward the Democrats over time as well as increasing the weight of nonwhite voters within the Democratic Party over time. But other changes are important, such as the decline of noncollege educated voters, particularly whites; the aging of the adult population; and the rise of new generations to replace older ones.

In this report, the authors will explore the effect of these changes on the demographic composition of the electorate and, especially, on the composition of the two major political parties. Reflecting the latter focus, this analysis will not focus on how many individuals from a given demographic group voted or will likely vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate in a particular election. Rather, it focuses on how many people who voted or are likely to vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate in a particular election belong to a given demographic group. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 53 pages].

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission: Overview and Selected Issues for Congress

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission: Overview and Selected Issues for Congress. Congressional Research Service. Karen L. Shanton. June 14, 2019

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is an independent federal agency charged with helping improve the administration of federal elections. It was established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA; P.L. 107-252; 116 Stat. 1666; 52 U.S.C. §§20901-21145) and includes a four-member commission, a professional staff, an inspector general, and three advisory bodies.

The EAC—and the legislation that created it—marked a shift in the federal approach to election administration. Congress had set requirements for the conduct of elections before HAVA, but HAVA was the first federal election administration legislation also to back its requirements with substantial federal support. In addition to setting new types of requirements, it provided federal funding to help states meet those requirements and facilitate other improvements to election administration and created a dedicated federal agency—the EAC—to manage election administration funding and collect and share election administration information.

[PDF format, 30 pages].

The National Popular Vote (NPV) Initiative: Direct Election of the President by Interstate Compact

The National Popular Vote (NPV) Initiative: Direct Election of the President by Interstate Compact. Congressional Research Service. Thomas H. Neale, Andrew Nolan. Updated May 9, 2019

The National Popular Vote (NPV) initiative proposes an agreement among the states, an interstate compact that would effectively achieve direct popular election of the President and Vice President without a constitutional amendment. It relies on the Constitution’s grant of authority to the states in Article II, Section 1 to appoint presidential electors “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct…. ” Any state that joins the NPV compact pledges that if the compact comes into effect, its legislature will award all the state’s electoral votes to the presidential ticket that wins the most popular votes nationwide, regardless of who wins in that particular state. The compact would, however, come into effect only if its success has been assured; that is, only if states controlling a majority of electoral votes (270 or more) join the compact. By early May 2019, 14 states and the District of Columbia had joined the compact. After early momentum—eight states and the District of Columbia joined the NPV Compact between 2007 and 2011—the pace of state accessions slowed through 2018. Since then, four additional states joined, bringing the total number of electoral votes controlled by NPV member states to 189. During the same period, legislation to join the compact had been introduced during the current session in at least one chamber of the legislature in 14 additional states that control an additional 150 electors.

[PDF format, 32 pages].

Democratic Defense Against Disinformation 2.0

Democratic Defense Against Disinformation 2.0. Atlantic Council. Alina Polyakova and Daniel Fried. June 2019

This Atlantic Council paper is the second edition of “Democratic Defense Against Disinformation.” The first edition was published in February 2018.

Foreign interference in democratic elections has put disinformation at the forefront of policy in Europe and the United States. The second edition of Democratic Defense Against Disinformation takes stock of how governments, multinational institutions, civil-society groups, and the private sector have responded to the disinformation challenge. As democracies have responded, our adversaries have adapted and evolved. As the speed and efficiency of influence operations increase, democratic societies need to further invest in resilience and resistance to win the new information war. Democratic Defense Against Disinformation 2.0 is a report card on efforts and a roadmap for policymakers and social media companies. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 32 pages].

The State and Local Role in Election Administration: Duties and Structures

The State and Local Role in Election Administration: Duties and Structures. Congressional Research Service. Karen L. Shanton. March 4, 2019

The administration of elections in the United States is highly decentralized. Elections are primarily administered by thousands of state and local systems rather than a single, unified national system.

States and localities share responsibility for most election administration duties. Exactly how responsibilities are assigned at the state and local levels varies both between and within states, but there are some general patterns in the distribution of duties. States typically have primary responsibility for making decisions about the rules of elections (policymaking). Localities typically have primary responsibility for conducting elections in accordance with those rules (implementation). Localities, with varying contributions from states, typically also have primary responsibility for paying for the activities and resources required to conduct elections (funding).

[PDF format, 22 pages].

Federal Role in Voter Registration: The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and Subsequent Developments

Federal Role in Voter Registration: The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and Subsequent Developments. Congressional Research Service. Sarah J. Eckman. January 23, 2019

Historically, most aspects of election administration have been left to state and local governments, resulting in a variety of practices across jurisdictions with respect to voter registration. States can vary on a number of elements of the voter registration process, including whether or not to require voter registration; where or when voter registration occurs; and how voters may be removed from registration lists. The right of citizens to vote, however, is presented in the U.S. Constitution in the 15th, 19th, and 26th Amendments. Beginning with the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in 1965, Congress has sometimes passed legislation requiring certain uniform practices for federal elections, intended to prevent any state policies that may result in the disenfranchisement of eligible voters. The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) was enacted in 1993 and set forth a number of voter registration requirements for states to follow regarding voter registration processes for federal elections.

[PDF format, 35 pages].