Who is Alice Miller and what’s she wanted for? She is a Washington bureaucrat and, no, she is not wanted for breaking a federal statute. Rather, she misinterpreted a regulation and, in the process, nullified the laws of two states.
She used the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (passed by Congress and signed by then-President Clinton), which requires state governments to allow a person to automatically register to vote when applying for a driver’s license or social services.
The law requires states to use a registration form designed by a federal office called the Election Assistance Commission; however, states may petition the commission to revise the form to include state qualification laws. Laws in both Kansas and Arizona require registrants to show that they are U.S. citizens in order to qualify to vote. The Obama administration does not like voter qualifications and, presumably, Alice Miller doesn’t either. Her title is “Acting Director” of the Election Assistance Commission. She refused to reprint the forms for Kansas and Arizona to conform to state law, as both had requested.
Alice Miller’s action would have gone unnoticed had it not been for an item published in PJ Media by J. Christian Adams. No doubt she would have preferred anonymity.
Was she even authorized to take such an action? Probably not. She was named “Acting Director” in a “line of succession” document written by the commission’s general counsel who was, at the time, himself, the Acting Director. His “line of succession” document was never voted on by the members of the commission, thus lacked authority. Hence Ms. Miller’s action became an unprecedented policy decision supported by Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice.
Prior to her role as “Acting Director,” Ms. Miller was a garden-variety bureaucrat at the commission. Before joining it she had been the staff lawyer for the District of Columbia’s Board of Elections and Ethics. That office oversaw D.C. elections. In that job, she once said that elections should be run with a more “‘holistic’ approach to ensuring that elections are usable, secure and reliable.” “Holistic” is a made-up word meaning, “relating to or concerned with wholes.” In this case, her refusal to adjust the forms for Kansas and Arizona means those forms definitely are not “holistic.” So much for consistency.
The two states promptly sued. A federal court sided with them, ordering the EAC to reprint the forms with the corrections in them. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, reversed this and held that Alice Miller did have the power to deny new forms to the two states.
Now, the states have asked the Supreme Court to take the case. The Public Interest Legal Foundation and the American Civil Rights Union (not to be confused with the American Civil Liberties Union) have filed an amicus brief in support of the Kansas and Arizona case.
An underlying problem here is that Congress passes laws without many specifics, leaving it to federal bureaucrats to write (and enforce) regulations that activate the laws. The Federal Code of Regulations now comprises 175,000 pages. As Charles Murray puts it in his new book By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, “let’s withhold compliance with regulations that are pointless, stupid and tyrannical.” Good idea. Alas, it won’t work in this case, where it is a tyrannical bureaucrat, not the regulation, that has caused an unnecessary problem.
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