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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?  

The “test group” I’ve been following is small, but according to the SVRS, 25% of them are not legally registered voters, even though they all registered at the polls on June 5th- all with completed registration forms and rock-solid documentation of residency.

How can this be?  How can it be that 3 of 12 people I personally know, all of whom are legal and eligible to vote and all of whom have registered and provided the correct documents, are not showing up in the voter registration database that is required by federal law for the explicit purpose of maintaining accurate voter lists???  According to Reid Magney, Public Information Officer for the Government Accountability Board, human error.  

In a response to an email I sent inquiring about voter history and the SVRS, Mr. Magney stated the following about the accuracy of the SVRS:

  • Voter history is usually reliable, but in any situation where thousands of workers are doing data entry for millions of voters, there will be a few mistakes. Those mistakes can include a poll worker accidentally recording participation on the for a non-voter on the poll list, though we believe this will be cut down with the new requirement to sign the poll list instead of just having poll workers write a voter number next to the voter’s name.
  • Additionally, clerks who are recording participation from the poll list into SVRS can make mistakes, skipping one person who voted and recording a person who did not vote.
Okay, I get that.  People make mistakes and I can’t begrudge a hard-worker who makes a simple clerical error.  However, those explanations don’t fit these three people’s situations - these are GAB issues - and the GAB has yet to respond to an inquiry about them.  We have a hugely important election coming up in 4 weeks and the poll lists that will be created from the SVRS won’t contain the names of these individuals.  And, if my understanding of the supplemental voter lists is correct, they won’t be on those lists either.  This is not acceptable.  

It’s been 4 months and 2 elections since these people submitted their registrations and provided the correct documentation; enough time has been allowed for all the players to get their ducks in a row.  No more excuses of recent elections bogging staff down or upcoming elections running people ragged.  Somewhere between the bogging and running, SOMEONE HAS TO FIX THE PROBLEMS.  And yes, Houston, we DO have a problem.  25% of the people I’m watching are not legally registered voters according to the State of Wisconsin when they are legally eligible to vote and have registered; how many others have been wrongly listed as “inactive” or never made it to the database?  And how many of them don’t know it?

Indeed, we have a problem, and the GAB needs to fix it ASAP.  Because a few clerical errors are understandable as human error, but a lot of clerical errors start to look a little like voter suppression.  I'm just sayin'...

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