Faced with a request from activists to spend $50,000 of federal money on voting centers on Indian reservations, Secretary of State Jason Gant said he wasn’t sure of the legality. He’d only spend the money, Gant said, if the U.S. Election Assistance Commission wrote an advisory opinion saying it was alright.
There was only one problem: the U.S. Election Assistance Commission essentially no longer exists. It has no commissioners, is incapable of issuing advisory opinions and has a backlog of requests dating back years.
Moreover, Gant serves on a task force related to the EAC through the National Association of Secretaries of State, for which Gant is the treasurer.
That’s the awkward series of events reported today by my colleague Jonathan Ellis, which you can read here.
Now, it’s unclear exactly what Gant knew when he told the state’s election board Wednesday that “as soon as we get a response (from the EAC), we will review that and move forward.” That’s because Gant didn’t return Ellis’ messages yesterday — and hasn’t returned journalists’ calls with anything more than terse emailed statements for more than a year now, retreating into a P.R. bunker last summer when a number of bad news stories broke at once.
I see three possibilities:
- Gant didn’t know the EAC was incapable of delivering the opinion he requested
- Gant knew the EAC couldn’t do it, and that’s exactly why he wrote to them — a backdoor way of killing a proposal he didn’t want
- Gant knew the EAC couldn’t deliver his advisory opinion, but genuinely believed that group was the only people capable of giving him the OK to spend the money. He didn’t mention the EAC’s problems to the board out of either forgetfulness or deeming it unimportant
Will this news have any impact on Gant, or is it a tempest in a teapot?