Soaries Resigns EAC Post; No Successor Has Emerged

Posted April 22, 2005 at 5:32pm

DeForest Soaries, one of the first four members of the Election Assistance Commission and its first chairman, resigned his post last week.

The Republican appointee, a Baptist minister and former New Jersey secretary of state, cited personal reasons for his departure but also blamed Congress and the administration for not taking enough interest in election reform.

“All four of us had to work without staff, without offices, without resources. I don’t think our sense of personal obligation has been matched by a corresponding sense of commitment to real reform from the federal government,” Soaries told The Associated Press.

Soaries’ announcement caught Capitol Hill by surprise. It was unclear Friday whom GOP leaders might consider as a replacement.

Soaries ignited a firestorm of controversy on the Hill when he suggested prior to the 2004 elections that the government ought to prepare for the possibility that Election Day could be disrupted by a disaster, such as a terrorist attack.

His pronouncement to then-Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge rankled some in Congress who suggested that the commissioner was trying to overstep his authority.

At the time, Soaries said his critics misread his intentions — that his aim was to work with Homeland Security officials to facilitate coordination and communication between the states and the federal government in the event of a crisis.

By the time of his resignation, Soaries had already rotated out of the chairmanship, which alternates between a Republican and a Democrat on the commission.

— Amy Keller