In their effort to review 1.9 million recall signatures, state election officials are embarking on a project unlike any they have done before, relying on newly purchased software that can convert handwritten names into entries in six searchable databases. Experts say that the type of software the state is using can produce databases in a short time, but that officials must be ready to address numerous errors because computers sometimes misread handwritten letters. “Handwriting recognition software is not great,” said Daniel Lopresti, a computer science professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. “A lot of the names are going to have errors in them.”
Democrats submitted signatures to recall Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state senators Tuesday. Under state law, the Government Accountability Board, which runs elections, has 31 days to determine whether enough valid signatures were filed to force recall elections, but asked a judge Friday for more time.
The state is spending about $100,000 to buy Artsyl Technologies’ docAlpha software and get technical advice. State workers are electronically scanning the petitions so the software can read the printed names on them and convert them into typewritten characters.
The computer determines what each name is and then shows it to a computer operator alongside an image of how it appeared on the petition. The operator will fix any errors before allowing the name to be entered into the database, said Jeff Moore, chief sales officer for Artsyl.