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Legal Center Opposes Voter Roll Purges in Wisconsin Lawsuit PDF  | Print |  Email
By Campaign Legal Center   
October 06, 2008
 The Campaign Legal Center, joined by a number of other public interest and civil rights organizations, today sought to enter a case involving an attempt by the Wisconsin Attorney General to misapply the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to purge state voter rolls.

"The Attorney General's suit is legally flawed and ignores both the letter and the spirit of the Help America Vote Act," said J. Gerald Hebert, Director of Litigation for the Campaign Legal Center. "If the Wisconsin Attorney General's lawsuit is successful, thousands of Wisconsin voters will be disenfranchised turning the Help America Vote Act into the 'Strip Americans of the Right to Vote Act.'"

Joining the Legal Center in the filing of a motion to participate as amici curiae and a proposed brief in Van Hollen v. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board were the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Fund, the Voting Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation, Inc., Fair Elections Wisconsin and Daniel P. Tokaji (the "amici").

The Van Hollen litigation was brought by the Wisconsin Attorney General in the Circuit Court of Dane County and raises important issues regarding the application of the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, 42 U.S.C. §15301 et seq. ("HAVA"), to the State of Wisconsin. In filing the motion to participate, the amici advised the Court that because the Wisconsin Attorney General's interpretation of HAVA was legally flawed, the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The motion and brief also advised the court that the amici believed it was helpful to place the Attorney General's construction of HAVA in a national context, because such a context would show how his interpretation of HAVA was significantly at odds with the understanding of HAVA adopted by many other states.

"It is ironic that Wisconsin's top law enforcement officer would seek relief from the courts that actually would violate federal law", said Hebert. "There is nothing in the law that requires the disenfranchisement of persons simply because their name in the voter registration database does not perfectly match some other data base." Hebert cited typographical errors, clerical mistakes, use of hyphenated names, and changes in maiden and married names as the main cause of any computer mismatches.

"It makes little sense to strip Americans of the right to vote based on an unsuccessful effort to match voter information with another government data base, especially when federal law not only does not require it but even prohibits it," Hebert said. "The Attorney General's suit, if successful, would result in the needless and unfair disenfranchisement of thousands of registered voters on the eve of Election Day for something as simple as having registered to vote using a middle initial instead of one's full middle name as it may appear on a driver's license."

The motion and accompanying brief provided background information concerning the practice of computer matching to explain why HAVA generally does not link voter eligibility to the successful matching of registration records with records contained in other databases. Finally, the brief identifies concerns as to whether granting the relief requested by the Attorney General could significantly interfere with the conduct of the November 4, 2008 election in Wisconsin.

To read the brief, click here.

To read the motion, click here.

Wisconsin: No Backups of Election Records PDF  | Print |  Email
By John Washburn   
October 26, 2007

This article appeared on Washburn's World and is reposted here with permission of the author.


For 19 years (since the passage of 1987Act391) Wisconsin law has required election officials to make backups of the electronic records found on the removable memory cards of voting equipment. The specific statute, WI Stats. 7.23(1)(g) reads:

    7.23(1)(g) Detachable recording units and compartments for use with electronic voting machines may be cleared or erased 14 days after any primary and 21 days after any other election. Before clearing or erasing the units or compartments, a municipal clerk shall transfer the data contained in the units or compartments to a disk or other recording medium which may be erased or destroyed 22 months after the election to which the data relates.
I have been given a number of excuses over the last two years as to why required election records have not been created. The excuses are many and varied, but are all variations on the theme:
    "But, this is a new (procedure/form/requirement). The election officials are not used to following the new (law/regulation/recommendation)."
Wisconsin: Ballot Counters Break Down in Milwaukee PDF  | Print |  Email
By Meg Kissinger, JS Online   
November 07, 2006

Voting Equipment: ES&S Optech IIIP Eagle precinct scanners, AutoMark ballot marking devices


From JSOnline:


Reports of voting problems were sprouting like crabgrass. By 9 a.m., reports of broken machines were heard from Maryland Avenue School on the city's east side, at the Beulah Brinton Community Center in Bay View and at 82nd Street School on the northwest side.

Said Robert Kofler, a voter at the 82nd Street School:

"The voting machine stopped working after accepting only one ballot. Poll workers there had no clue as to what to do when the machine broke. They had us place all ballots in a pile and then said that they would process them when the machine is fixed. Was this right to do this? I do not know. Seems very wrong to me."

Election Commission officials were not available for comment.

Wisconsin: Voter Action Asks State to Decertify Touch-Screen Voting Machines PDF  | Print |  Email
By VoterAction   
October 04, 2006

Touch-Screen Voting Machines Inherently Prone to Fraud


Voter Action Wisconsin has filed a petition with the Wisconsin State Elections Board asking them to decertify direct record electronic (touch-screen) voting machines.


“Wisconsin has always been a leader in the regulation and administration of elections,” said Mike Wittenwyler (pictured at left), attorney for Voter Action Wisconsin. “By decertifying this equipment, Wisconsin will set a national example on the importance of election integrity. These machines are inherently prone to fraud. Until touch screen machines are replaced, the state must take steps to ensure that security procedures are followed and voter integrity preserved.”


“Wisconsin should provide meaningful accessibility, not an inferior and untrustworthy system,” said Holly Jacobson, co-director of Voter Action. “Electronic voting system breakdowns have wreaked havoc in recent state primaries, disenfranchising thousands of voters and calling into question election results. The serious security flaws inherent in electronic voting technology – confirmed in a new study by Princeton University experts last week-- underscore the need for more secure and verifiable voting systems.”

Wisconsin: Primary Election Plagued By Computer Problems PDF  | Print |  Email
By John Washburn, VoteTrustUSA Voting Technology Task Force   
September 18, 2006

Wisconsin held its 2006 federal primary on September 12, 2006.  As usual on election night election officials stated that everything went smoothly. But, even with these election night assurances the reality is there are 3 counties in Wisconsin with reported troubles. The counties are Winnebago County (which contains the City of Oshkosh), Waukesha County, and Milwaukee County.

Winnebago County

In Winnebago County the blended system of Diebold AccuVote OS optical scanners and Diebold AccuVote TSx DRE's did not integrate as advertised. The main technical problem is the 2 sets of components to the blended system do not actually blend. Fidlar Election Company is the Diebold representative in Winnebago County. Fidlar stated a product called the "accumulator" would allow the two technologies to "blend" and produce precinct-level reporting of candidate totals.


There are two problems with the "accumulator" product sold in Winnebago County. The first problem is technical. The accumulator does exist or at least is not available for sale. The second problem is a legal one. Wisconsin has not certified the use any Diebold system using the "accumulator" so even if the accumulator were delivered by November 7, 2006, state law would prohibits its use.  Using uncertified voting systems is violation of Wisconsin statute WI 5.40(2). The matter of the possible fraud of selling this system has been turned over to the County Counsel for Winnebago County. County Supervisor Jef Hall is also following up by proposing a resolution to hold back a portion of the payment to Diebold equal to the overtime required to hand count the votes the “accumulator” vaporware could not accumulate.

Wisconsin: All Election Integrity is Local PDF  | Print |  Email
By John Washburn, VoteTrustUSA Voting Technology Task force   
April 17, 2006

It has been pointed out on my blog, my focus on the election irregularities in my home voting district of Gemantown District #1 is petty and I should move down the road to the big fish, the City of Milwaukee. I agree the City of Milwaukee is where 10% of the entire ballots cast in the state of Wisconsin are cast in the 314 wards of the City of Milwaukee. So by the simple application of the Willy Sutton Maxim, the bulk of state fraud is committed there because that is where the votes are. And, I have spent time examining the election irregularities there.


I disagree though that I should ignore the election irregularities perpetrated by my neighbors and my village clerk. The Swedes have a delightful proverb, "Sweep your own stoop before youoffer to sweep you neighbor’s stoop" . The same holds for election integrity; more so actually.


For more than 25 years we (yes, I am included in this group) have allowed our election process to devolve from an active, vital part of our Republic to a spectator sport where the only participation expected is for 8%to 40% of the citizens to show up, cast a vote and go home to watch a set of results come in. We have systematically accepted the notion that expediency in administering an election is the paramount (or only) criterion to judge election success. We all demanded in our own way that we preferred quick results for elections over accurate results or verifiable results. Just thepress of the immediate: "Who won?" We don’t even ask any more if the resultswhich come in are correct or not. Whichever candidate the machine software says won the race we accept as true without evidence.


Except for a literal handful of Cassandras (the Collier Brothers, Rebecca Mercuri, and some uber-geeks on the ACM risk forum), no one, not election administrators, not elected officials, not the press, and most importantly not citizen electors asked the hard question:


"Is using secret, unexamined and untested software to tally votes in an election an improvement in election administration?" 

Wisconsin Approves the Vote-PAD Assistive Device PDF  | Print |  Email
By Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA   
January 31, 2006

The Vote-PAD (Voting-on-Paper Assistive Device) has been approved by the Wisconsin State Elections Board for use in hand-counted paper ballot municipalities. After mock elections were held in Janauary, Board of Elections staff had expressed some concern about the reaction to the the device.

However, after meeting with U.S. Department of Justice attorneys, Kevin Kennedy, Executive Director of the Wisconsin State Elections Board (pictured at left), announced the state’s approval of the Vote-PAD. Mr. Kennedy said the attorneys spent considerable time looking at the device and asking questions about its use in the voting process. It was indicated, he said, “that they did not see anything that should stop Wisconsin from proceeding with approval.”


The Vote-PAD has also attracted interest in larger jurisdictions that use optical scanners to count ballots. It was recently purchased by Yolo County, California. Towns and counties all across the country are struggling with how best to meet federal requirements. The law requires each polling place to have a method by which individuals with disabilities can vote unassisted.


The Vote-PAD is an inexpensive, non-computerized, voter-assist device that helps people with visual or dexterity impairments to independently and privately mark the same paper ballot as other voters. The Vote-PAD was developed to help small towns and counties comply with the accessibility requirement of the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002. It allows them to continue administering elections the same way they have in the past.

New Wisconsin Election Bill Not as Positive as Originally Reported By Activists and Others PDF  | Print |  Email
By John Gideon, and VoteTrustUSA   
January 05, 2006
Contrary to reports, bill does NOT allow for examination of source code! The original version -- which did -- was changed during amendment process to remove important clause!

This article was originally posted at BradBlog and includes additional Reporting by Brad Friedman.

The voting activist and election reform advocacy community was excited yesterday upon release of news about the signing of a new bill in Wisconsin, AB267, that originally included wording that would allow munipalities to "provide to any person, upon request, at the expense of the municipality, the coding for the software that the municipality uses to operate the system and to tally the votes cast". Indeed, The BRAD BLOG received many email reports last night about the "good news" concerning this bill.

The bill, as understood and reported by many, would have been the first time that voting activists would have been afforded the opportunity to actually "look under the hood" of voting machines by examining the source code used in the software in order to see what was really being done on the equipment supplied by Voting Machine Companies. So far, those companies have managed keep such source code secret and proprietary and away from the 'prying eyes' of the pesky public who has been forced -- by the corporate privatization of America's public elections -- to rely on such secret software to accurately record and count their votes.

The apparent "good news," however, was incorrect, as The BRAD BLOG has learned. The language from the original bill was changed during the amendment process to strip it of the provisions that would have allowed the public inspection of the secret code!

The good news still left to report is that the bill, signed yesterday by WI Gov. Jim Doyle, will at least require a voter verified paper "record" for every vote cast. In theory, the measure would allow for a manual count or recount of votes in cases where the state determines such a count would be necessary.

Unfortunately, the version of the bill widely cited by election reform advocates was to the original language as introduced on August 24, 2005.

On November 3, 2005 a committee gutted the "disclosed source code" requirement with an Assembly Substitute Amendment 1. That amended deleted AB627 as introduced and replaced it with ASA1.

On November 10, that version was replaced in toto by Assembly Substitution Amendment 2 which is the version eventually signed by the Governor yesterday.

So, we are now going to have to wait for another day to "look under that hood"... Though that day may be coming soon...

Wisconsin: Governor Signs Voter Verified Paper Record Bill Into Law PDF  | Print |  Email
By Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA   
January 05, 2006
New Wisconsin Election Bill Not as Positive as Originally Reported By Activists and Others!

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle has signed Act 2005-92 into law, making Wisconsin the 27th state to require a voter verified paper record of every vote. The law will also require voting machine vendors to place software components into escrow and provides for review of software under certain circumstances including recounts.

Any voting machines to be used in the state already had to pass State Elections Board tests. Electronic voting machines, in particular, already were required to maintain their results tallies even if the power goes out, and to produce paper ballots that could be used in case of a recount. The new law also requires the paper ballots to be presented to voters for verification before being stored.

The bill orginally called for full disclosure of voting system software, a provision that was unfortunately weakend dramatically by amendments in the Assembly before it was sent to the Senate. In its original form, the bill called for full public disclosure of the source code used in voting system software.

Wisconsin: State Senate Sends Election Bill To Governor With Unanimous Vote PDF  | Print |  Email
By Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA   
December 09, 2005
With a unanimous voice vote, the Wisconsin State Senate has passed AB 627  and sent the bill to Governor Doyle for his signature. The legislation establishes a requirement for a paper record of every vote and the disclosure of voting system software. The Governor has repeatedly voiced his support for the bill.

The bill's author Senator Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee), commented after the vote that “the Senate struck a blow for accuracy and fairness in Wisconsin elections today,” began Senator Plale. “This legislation will ensure that each and every vote cast in Wisconsin is counted correctly.”

“I look forward to watching the Governor sign this legislation into law.” Concluded Senator Plale. “This is an example of the success possible when cooperation not competition rules the day.”

Gov. Jim Doyle applauded the Assembly's passage of the bill last month and is expected to sign the bill before the end of the year. "The last election showed we urgently need to upgrade and modernize our election system," Doyle said in a statement. "This legislation will take an important step forward, ensuring that new touch screen voting machines also produce a verifiable, paper ballot. This is a vital step to ensuring we would be prepared for an event such as a recount or an election challenge."
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