When I saw the cover of this week's Isthmus yesterday, I was immediately intrigued. Right next to a big picture of Kevin Kennedy, General Counsel at the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, the title, “Do you trust this man with your vote?”, was asking a question I have been both asking of others and trying to answer for myself for the last year and a half. My hope was that this article would provide needed insight that would help me finally say “Yes, I do!”. Unfortunately, the article didn’t just fail to shed any kind of real light on Wisconsin’s top election official, it totally glossed over some very important issues that are the reasons for the question, “Do you trust this man with your vote?”, leaving this reader thinking that the author wanted more to present Kevin Kennedy positively than to actually address the question posed in the title – which I believe would leave people truly questioning whether they really can trust Kevin Kennedy with their votes. Certainly, after what I’ve learned about Kevin Kennedy and aspects of his history heading up our elections, I do not.
Back in July, I began writing about the registration and voting experiences of a handful of people, trying to emphasize that following up on registrations and voter history is just as important as voting. Checking to ensure that our voter registrations and voter participation are accurately reflected in our voter histories is really the only way we can know, to any degree of certainty, if our votes counted. It is also how we make sure we are ready to vote for upcoming elections.
No, seeing that we are registered and that we participated in a particular election doesn’t tell us beyond a doubt that our votes counted, much less that they counted for the candidate(s) for whom we cast our votes. But when we register (or update our registration) or vote, and later can see that information reflected in the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS), that’s about as close to knowing our votes counted as we’re going to get.
But how accurate is the SVRS?
Throughout the summer, and particularly since the Walker recall election, I have been keeping an eye on the voter registration statuses and histories of several people. (See my posts, "18? Check! State ID? Check! Vote? Check! Or maybe not...", “Do Our Votes Really Count?” , “Do Our Votes Really Count? The GAB Responds”, and "More Confirmed Voter Registrations...and a Kudo for the GAB".) My goal has been to see how the process works not in theory or on paper, but in reality. Because voter registration is important. In all but one of these United States, without registering, one cannot vote. It’s that simple. Voter registration is so important, in fact, that in 1993, President Clinton passed into law the National Voter Registration Act, which mandated all but six states to take specific measures to make voter registration for federal elections easier. Wisconsin is one of those six states exempt from this act, so it has become important to me that the voter registration process works…well…and by “well”, I mean “without error”. Unfortunately, that is not what I have found...thus far.
Ever since the fiasco that was the Prosser/Kloppenburg Wisconsin Supreme Court election – and specifically because of the shenanigans of Kathy Nickolaus, Waukesha’s County Clerk – my friend and I have been watching the election process much more closely. And when I say “election process”, I mean starting with voter registration all the way through final results. Every step, every process, every exchange of information especially as it relates to the act of voting, we’re looking into it. We have different questions about the process, and we have different opinions about many things (for best friends, we sure can “discuss” loudly! :), but we are both trying to get at the same thing: making sure our votes count. Well, today she got something that has put a new twist on things...a scanned copy of HER ballot.
Over the weekend, I learned about an online voter registration code released by the DNC that can be used on virtually any website to allow people to register to vote. The site I visited to check it out showed that it (the code) was sponsored by “Obama for America”, so I trusted it would produce exactly what is needed to register. Unfortunately, it did not. I found that, as with mailers I had received from third-party groups trying to promote (or twart?) voter registration, the form it produced did not provide all of the information that the Wisconsin voter registration form (GAB-131) provides, and it also gave the wrong address for mailing the completed form and documentation.
Disheartened by this, I decided to check out some of the other online voter applications I’d seen around the web to see if they were any more or less accurate than the applications I’d received in the mail. I was gravely disappointed. Below are summaries of what I found from the 6 online registration sites I tried:
When I first heard about the Government Accountability Board’s unanimous decision to allow Wisconsin citizens to use electronic devices – namely, cell phones and laptops – to show state-approved documentation of residency for voter registration, my thought was that it was a natural move. Why? If for no other reason, because most things election-related are electronic; from the Bush-mandated Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS), to the recently implemented online voter registration through the Voter Public Access site, to ballot collections, to election results tabulation, delivery, and posting. With the exception of very few municipalities that still do hand-counting of votes, almost everything related to elections is done with the use of technology. So why not voter registration?
I decided to take a closer look and what kind of technology is in use already to try to understand why anyone would have a problem with this new rule.
After taking a two-week hiatus, I dove back into research this weekend and - once again, by chance - ran across an eye-catching procurement on July 30, 2012, by Governor Walker's office for legal services...from a law firm in Washington D.C. with some very high-level, politically-experienced lawyers.
While it may not be of much interest to many, there are a few people who have been reading my posts that might be interested to know how voting went for the people whose voter registrations I've been "tracking". I figure, to be fair, if I'm going to gripe about things that go wrong, I should give props when things go right. What's more, again to be fair, I need to drop a kudo on Reid Magney from the GAB.
I was just cruising through the Government Accountability Board's FAQ and came across the question: "Must election inspectors ask all voters for photo ID, even if the election inspectors know the voter?" And this is what came up when I clicked on it:
"Access deniedThe same thing happened when I clicked on the link for the question "Can election inspectors collect information from a voter’s photo ID on Election Day?"
You are not authorized to access this page."
Huh? These are good questions, so why are we (or is it me?) not allowed to see the answer? What is the GAB telling election inspectors that they don't want us to know? Why put the questions out there if they aren't going to let us see the answers?
I’m all for voting and doing what I can to get others to vote, too. And, while I can sit here and say I don’t care who they vote for as long as they vote, I’d be straight-up lying. Of course, I want them to vote for “my guys”; why would I want them to vote for the “other guys”??? I don’t and I’m not even going to try to lie about it. But the National Right to Life Committee Educational Trust Fund (NRLC) and Focus on Families (FoF), two pro-life groups that “…joined together in an unprecedented partnership to conduct one of the largest combined and nonpartisan voter-registration campaigns ever…” don’t seem to have a problem with lying.
Starting today, Wisconsin residents who want to register to vote – or to update their registration information – can get the process started online via the Voter Public Access site!
A new link (Register to Vote) on the Voter Public Access site appeared today, allowing for online registration they are calling “Click and Mail”. People can now fill out their registration forms online, essentially entering themselves into the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) in a pending status, print off the completed registration form, then finalize the registration with the required documentation (e.g. ID) at their local clerk’s office or at the polling place on election day. Clerks with access to the SVRS can pull up a person’s pending registration the next day, and complete the process lickety-split. I had no idea this was coming but I think it sounds awesome!
(there’s always a “but”…)
I am a frequent flyer on the Government Accountability Board (GAB) web site, visiting various sections and pages nearly every day as I strive to become an informed voter and Wisconsin citizen. To help me do this, I’ve added the RSS feed for Recent Clerk Communications to my browser home page so I can easily see when something new has been posted. Now, I’m a little late in getting around to sharing this, but on July 24, 2012, the GAB post a notice to clerks about upcoming recall elections, entitled “Procedure for Conducting a Recall Election during the August 14, 2012 Partisan Primary”. It would seem that this would be big election news - more recall elections - but, as I was to find out, not as far as the GAB seems to be concerned.
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