When the Salem Town Hall surprisingly ran out of ballots during the busy November 2014 election, voting officials were forced to make hundreds of photocopies and tediously hand count the ballots after the polls closed. Thanks to modern technology, this should never happen again. Voting is now easier, cheaper, safer and more efficient with the recent arrival of the DS200 Precinct scanner and tabulator and the ExpressVote universal voting system, according to Kenosha County Clerk Mary Schuch-Krebs. Schuch-Krebs said she’s requested a hardware upgrade since being elected in 2008. “It’s been a long time coming,” Schuch-Krebs said. “I think the voters are going to be really happy with the change.”
Articles about voting issues in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin: Judicial panel dismisses complaint against judge in voter ID case | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The state Judicial Commission has dismissed the complaint filed last year against a judge over his handling of a voter ID case. Last fall, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess stepped aside from the lawsuit challenging the state requirement on voters to show photo ID at the polls rather than dismissing the case as ordered by the state Supreme Court. Another judge dismissed the case soon afterward. In a letter to Niess on Jan. 6, commission executive director Jeremiah Van Hecke said his judicial ethics agency found nothing for it to charge in the matter. “The commission’s examination of the investigation resulted in a determination that there is insufficient evidence of misconduct within the jurisdiction of the commission which would warrant further action or consideration,” Van Hecke said.
Wisconsin election board officials told the Legislature’s audit committee Wednesday that they have been struggling with an unprecedented workload as they worked to blunt a critical evaluation of their performance and save their agency from the chopping block. The Government Accountability Board has been forced to administer multiple recall elections, implement voter photo identification and conduct a massive statewide recount with limited staff during the past four years, the board’s director, Kevin Kennedy, told the committee. ”The Government Accountability Board is a Wisconsin success story,” Kennedy said. “I am disappointed that some critics of this agency have used this nonpartisan audit to make political points rather than focusing on how we can work together to maintain Wisconsin’s excellent record and reputation for running elections and transparency in government.”
Voting rights advocates want the Supreme Court to rule on Wisconsin’s strict voter ID law—and if they get their way, the impact could go way beyond the Badger State. Lawyers for the challengers to Wisconsin’s ID measure filed documents Wednesday asking the high court to review a ruling last October by a federal appeals court that upheld the controversial law. “Efforts to restrict access to the ballot demand a full and thorough hearing, which is why we are asking the Supreme Court to review this case and ultimately strike down Wisconsin’s voter ID law,” said Dale Ho of the ACLU, which is representing the challengers. It’s by no means certain that the Supreme Court will take the case. If it says no, the law would stay in effect.
Civil rights advocates asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to reverse a decision upholding Wisconsin’s voter photo identification law, arguing the case raises questions of national importance about limits on a state’s ability to restrict voting. The American Civil Liberties Union and allied groups argued in their filing that the Wisconsin case offers an “ideal vehicle” to settle the legal debate over voter ID laws. They said 17 states have adopted voter identification laws since the high court upheld Indiana’s law in 2008. They contend that arguments by supporters of such laws that they help prevent voter fraud is a pretext. The measures don’t serve any legitimate state interest and curtail the rights of black and Hispanic voters who lack ID, opponents say. What’s more, legal challenges moving back and forth between state and federal courts have created confusion, they argued.
Wisconsin: League of Women Voters recommends lawmakers make it less difficult to register |Wisconsin Gazette
The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, in a report released on Jan. 6, recommends the state Legislature make voter registration less difficult and allocate increased funding for the training of local election officials. The league, working with organizations such as the Wisconsin Election Protection coalition, recruited, trained and placed 250 volunteer election observers to monitor 493 polling places in cities, towns and villages across the state in the November 2014 midterm elections. The league’s report says the observers noted significant improvements in election administration and polling place management since the league began monitoring elections in 2010. The league attributes the improvements to: enhanced training of local officials by the state Government Accountability Board.
Wisconsin: Republicans eye rewrite of campaign finance laws, other election changes | Wisconsin State Journal
Republicans, in firm control of state government when they take office Monday, are poised to make the most sweeping revisions to state campaign finance law in decades. Many of those changes are already in effect after a series of federal court decisions made many current laws unenforceable. But a more comprehensive rewrite is in the works, and the overhaul is getting a thumbs up from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board — a frequent target of GOP ire that is itself in line for a possible makeover. Among other things, lawmakers are considering increasing campaign contribution limits and clarifying the coordination restrictions at the heart of a recent John Doe investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign. Also on tap: changes to election procedures, including banning all cameras from polling places and testing poll workers on their knowledge of election law. Those changes would come on the heels of a slew of changes adopted last session, including a controversial voter ID law that the U.S. Supreme Court could take up this year.
Wisconsin’s elections and ethics agency refuted in a court filing on Monday claims that it had improperly participated in a campaign finance investigation into Gov. Scott Walker and conservative groups that supported him. The Government Accountability Board’s filing comes after the Wisconsin Club for Growth, one of the groups targeted in the probe, alleged in a complaint unsealed earlier this month that top GAB officials launched the investigation without first getting approval from the agency’s six-member board. The GAB then continued with the investigation, even after the board voted to end its involvement in July, the group’s complaint alleges.
Republicans have taken aim at Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board and its director and general counsel, Kevin Kennedy, over ballot redesigns and handling of elections, and last week an audit of the group added more fuel. The state’s elections agency fell short in some of its statutorily required duties, the Legislative Audit Bureau found, and did not follow its penalty schedule for enforcing campaign finance, lobbying and ethics laws. Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, used that report’s release to call for a “complete overhaul” of the GAB, which she called a “rogue agency.” Kennedy, appearing on a Sunday broadcast of the statewide TV show “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” said criticism of the GAB based on the audit was “overblown.”
Wisconsin: Elections board director defends work, structure, amid calls for overhaul | Associated Press
The nonpartisan makeup of the state board that oversees elections, ethics and campaign finance laws in Wisconsin is its greatest strength, its director said at a meeting Tuesday amid calls from Republicans who control the Legislature that an overhaul is needed. Government Accountability Board director Kevin Kennedy defended the nonpartisan structure of the panel, as well as having it oversee elections, lobbying, ethics and campaign finance laws. Republicans are talking about breaking up the board, replacing the judges who are on it with partisan appointees, and other changes. Debate over what to do with the 7-year-old board is in the spotlight following an audit released Friday that detailed a number of problems with its operation, but did not recommend dismantling it or moving toward a partisan structure.