Through the sleight-of-hand of an apparently party- switching appointee, the Bush administration in December 2004 dodged the legal requirement to have no more than four members of one political party on the United States Commission on Civil Rights.
The bipartisan agency, which operates under the executive branch, is charged with investigating and reporting on violations and illegal practices in regard to civil rights, particularly voting violations.
The eight-member commission lost an Independent and a Democrat late last year, both of whom George W. Bush replaced with Republicans, creating what would have been a five-member GOP majority in violation of § 701.10 of the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Evidence suggests that on the same day Bush made the Republican appointments, Abigail Thernstrom, who had been appointed to the board as a Republican in 2001, changed her party affiliation to Independent in an attempt to skirt federal regulations.
Federal Regulations Governing the USCCR
From 45 CFR 701:
Authority: 42 U.S.C. 1975, 1975a, 1975b.
Source: 67 FR 70482, Nov. 22, 2002, unless otherwise noted.
§ 701.10 Membership of the Commission.
(a) The Commission is composed of eight members (or “Commissioners”), not more than four of whom may be of the same political party. The President shall appoint four members, the President pro tempore of the Senate shall appoint two, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall appoint two.
(b) The Chairperson and Vice Chairperson of the Commission are designated by the President with the concurrence of a majority of the Commissioners. The Vice Chairperson acts as Chairperson in the absence or disability of the Chairperson or in the event of a vacancy in that office.
(c) No vacancy in the Commission affects its powers and any vacancy is filled in the same manner and is subject to the same limitations with respect to party affiliations as previous appointments.
(d) Five members of the Commission constitute a quorum.