Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Public Administration and Policy
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is known for its dysfunction: political gridlock, insufficient funding, and vacancies that hinder enforcement of campaign finance law. This study suggests the root of the problem lies in the agency’s character as a bipartisan institution, and proposes a nonpartisan reframing. This research offers statistical analysis of Supreme Court justice confirmation votes to inform a theory-based restructure of the FEC. The Court’s confirmation process has historically utilized a supermajority cloture vote, however, that threshold was lowered to a simple majority in 2017. The result was an immediate spike of political polarization in the Court. Raising the FEC confirmation cloture vote from its current simple majority to a traditional supermajority will spark active and ideologically balanced election regulation. Further reforms to the Senate’s role include ceasing the use of the voice vote in confirmations—to allow for further research on voting patterns—and retiring the customary nomination of two new commissioners at a time from opposing political parties. Nonpartisanship would also be cultivated by reversing the FEC’s vote quorum, such that a majority vote is necessary for commissioners to dismiss a campaign violation investigation, rather than to act. Although the likelihood of implementation is low, these findings may inform further study of FEC effectiveness. Future research must discover politically feasible reform to make accountability the rule—rather than the exception—in United States federal elections.
Evans, Abby, "Reframing the Federal Election Commission: A Nonpartisan Solution" (2023). Public Administration & Policy. 15.