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.”
The GAB, made up of six nonpartisan judges, oversees Wisconsin elections and ethics compliance. Republicans who control the Legislature have been particularly critical of the GAB since it approved an investigation into whether GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign illegally coordinated with conservative groups. The GOP wants to adopt a more partisan model. Rep. Dean Knudson, a Hudson Republican leading the push to overhaul the board, has said he plans to introduce a plan soon that would create a hybrid entity with both partisan and nonpartisan appointees.
Republicans have been trying to use a state audit that found a number of issues with the board as further justification for such a move. The review found that board staff didn’t consistently follow a penalty schedule for enforcing campaign finance, lobbying and ethics laws; failed to conduct reviews to identify felons who may have voted illegally; has no written policy on handling complaints; and has failed to draft administrative rules despite board orders to do so.
Full Article: Wisconsin elections board officials defend performance.