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Government Accountability Board Reiterates Original Plans to Check Voter Records

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Date: 
November 11, 2008

MADISON, WI – On Tuesday, November 11, during its regular meeting, the Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.) unanimously directed staff to develop a protocol, including standards and a timeline for local elections officials to cross-check voter records in the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) with state Department of Transportation (DOT) data.

During its August 27, 2008, meeting, the Board determined that local election officials must commence HAVA-Checks effective August 6, 2008, but not before this date. The six-member Board of former judges ruled that a mismatch of voter information contained in the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) with Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) data, in and of itself, shall not result in disqualification of a voter.

The Board’s decision prevented potentially thousands of Wisconsin voters from being disenfranchised from voting on November 4, solely because the spelling of the voter’s name was not exactly the same in the DOT database and the SVRS database.

In its August 27 decision, the Board said that it would revisit its action after the fall election, at which time a process for updating the SVRS database would be determined, after gathering facts and statistics on the number of voters affected by the inability of two different computer databases (SVRS and DOT) to match voter information. The August 27 ruling directed staff to gather facts and prepare a report analyzing the non-matches between August 6 and the General Election, for the Board’s consideration.

On Tuesday, the Board reiterated its August 27 order by directing staff to develop a recommendation for providing guidance to local clerks for the implementation of retroactive HAVA Checks.

“Since being directed by the Board at its August 27 meeting, it has been our intention to work with our local election partners after the General Election to identify a protocol that ensures consistency and standards for cross-checking all voters in SVRS with DOT records,” according to Kevin Kennedy, G.A.B.’s Director and General Counsel, and Wisconsin’s Chief Election Officer.

“First though” Kennedy continued, “we must gather and analyze the facts and base a recommendation on how to proceed on facts – not perceptions. The Board has followed through on its intent enunciated at its August meeting.”

“Any plan for retroactive cross-checking of voter records must be carried out in a uniform manner using straightforward criteria,” said Nat Robinson, Elections Division Administrator. “This will be an important undertaking that requires that we do it right, rather than doing it quickly.”

Since August 6, municipal clerks have been cross-checking new voter registrations in Wisconsin against DOT driver’s license records. The Board’s action to reaffirm its August 27 decision will ensure that new and reregistered voters who were put into the system since January 2006 and before August 6, 2008, will also have their data cross-checked.

“The Board will review a staff recommendation at or before its January 2009 meeting.

“In the end, improved voter data quality is the goal,” said Kennedy. “The ultimate goal is to make sure the voter records in the SVRS are as accurate as practicable.”

In the meantime, voters with questions about their registration data can contact their municipal clerk’s office, or check online at https://vpa.wi.gov, the Elections Division’s Voter Public Access site.