Kevin Kennedy

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Wisconsin: Republicans seize on audit critical of state elections board | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

A report of the state’s ethics and elections agency released Friday found officials waited years in some cases to review whether felons had voted and did not promptly audit electronic voting equipment. The Government Accountability Board also avoided imposing late fees on candidates and political groups that hadn’t file their campaign finance reports on time. Republicans who control the Legislature pounced on the report by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau, saying it provided evidence the accountability board needs to be dismantled. … The board’s director, Kevin Kennedy, said his agency had many successes but had fallen behind on some matters because its resources have been strained in recent years by a wave of recall elections; implementing a voter ID law that has been sidelined by courts; conducting the first statewide recount in more than 20 years; administering newly drawn legislative districts; and responding to litigation on such matters.

Full Article: Republicans seize on audit critical of state elections board.

Wisconsin: Vos’ attacks on elections, ethics watchdog draw fire | Green Bay Press Gazette

No one in Wisconsin has been more forceful in demanding changes to the state’s Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections, campaign finance, ethics and lobbying, than Robin Vos. The Republican Assembly Speaker has deemed the GAB “dysfunctional” and called its director and general counsel, Kevin Kennedy, an “embarrassment” who “needs to be gone.” His critique has been long on vitriol but short on specifics. Vos likes that the board, which the Legislature created in 2007, is led by six former judges appointed by the governor to staggered six-year terms. But he feels these judges are being manipulated by Kennedy and other staff into serving as “a rubber stamp.” “The GAB judges are not in charge, and that has to change,” Vos said recently. Kennedy, noting in an interview that the board has at times overruled staff, is not aware of any board support for legislative intervention. He considers Vos’ comments “an insult to the board members.” The judges seem inclined to agree.

Full Article: Vos' attacks on elections, ethics watchdog draw fire.

Voting Blogs: Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law goes through the wringer | State of Elections

Like many other states, Wisconsin has recently enacted a voter ID law. After winning both the state legislature and the governor’s office in 2010 (a wave year for Republicans), the Wisconsin GOP quickly acted to restrict voting. Governor Scott Walker quickly signed the bill, claiming it was about the integrity of our electoral process, saying “to me, something as important as a vote is important … whether its one case, 100 cases or 100,000 cases.” Voting rights groups, on the other hand, pointed out that in-person voter fraud (what the law claims to address) is exceedingly rare. They claimed that the real purpose of the law was to discourage voting among constituencies which tend to vote Democratic. ACLU Voting Rights Project Director Dale Ho has been at the forefront of the fight against Wisconsin’s law. Ho said that 300,00 or more Wisconsin voters lack the required ID, and that to allow them all to vote 6,000 IDs would have to be issued every day, a practical impossibility. The Advancement Project agreed that getting all the required IDs out would be “mathematically impossible.” While many states are in the midst of litigation over voter ID issues, the Wisconsin case is especially pertinent, since it involves a hotly contested gubernatorial race and could the ID rules in place could sway the election.

Full Article: Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law goes through the wringer : State of Elections.

Wisconsin: Elections agency asks for nearly half a million dollars for voter ID | Wisconsin State Journal

Saying “there is very little time left to reach out to the public,” the head of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board announced Tuesday that he is asking the Legislature for nearly half a million dollars for a statewide campaign to notify voters that they must present a photo identification to vote Nov. 4. Kevin Kennedy, director of the state’s elections agency, said the money is needed to alert voters to the voter ID law, which a federal appeals court reinstated on Sept. 12.

Full Article: Elections agency asks for nearly half a million dollars for voter ID : Wsj.

Voting Blogs: Elections administrators deal with legal decisions | electionlineWeekly

Elections officials across the country are busy preparing for the upcoming November 4 general election. For many, while the days and sometimes nights are busier than normal, it’s relatively business as usual in the ramp up to the 2014 midterm election. However, officials in a handful of states are grappling with recent court rulings or waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop as they await court rulings. Nowhere does it seem have recent court rulings been more acutely felt than in Wisconsin. Last week the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the state’s voter photo ID law and now elections officials, state agencies and colleges and universities are scrambling to not only inform voters about the law, but make sure voters have the necessary ID. The state’s Government Accountability Board (GAB) said at a press conference following the ruling that they are taking “extraordinary efforts” to put the ID law into place.

Full Article: electionlineWeekly.

Wisconsin: Judge dismisses GOP lawsuit asking that the new model ballot be redesigned before election | Associated Press

A judge dismissed a lawsuit Wednesday that sought to force a redesign of Wisconsin ballots just six weeks before the Nov. 4 election, saying the complaint first should have been filed with the state elections board. Republican legislative leaders argued in the lawsuit filed last week that the model ballot is confusing, gives undue prominence to Democratic candidates and makes it hard to tell which office candidates are seeking. They asked a judge to force the Government Accountability Board to redesign the ballots, a move that elections officials dismissed as costly and not practical so close to the election.

Full Article: Judge dismisses GOP lawsuit asking that the new model ballot be redesigned before election - Daily Journal.

Wisconsin: Three Democratic county clerks won’t use GAB sample ballot | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Clerks around Wisconsin from both parties have modified the state’s model ballots for the Nov. 4 elections, raising questions about both the state officials who designed the ballots and about a GOP lawsuit aimed at forcing a costly reprinting of ballots. Clerks from both parties, including at least three Democrats, have found the model ballots confusing, showing that the concerns over them aren’t limited to the Republicans who have sued over the issue. Checks by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday found that most of the state’s urban areas will be using ballots that are more clearly marked for voters than the Government Accountability Board’s model ballot. The biggest exception is in Wausau. Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said Friday he had refused to use the ballot that state elections officials had recommended for this fall out of concerns that it was too confusing. Rock County Clerk Lori Stottler said she had similar concerns that the ballot put forward by the accountability board didn’t clearly distinguish for voters between the candidates on the ballot and the offices they were seeking. And La Crosse County Clerk Ginny Dankmeyer said she added shading to the ballots to make them clearer. “We try to make the ballot as accessible and easy to read, and that’s why I put the shading in,” she said.

Full Article: Three Democratic county clerks won't use GAB sample ballot.

Wisconsin: Absentee ballots already cast will need photo ID, elections official says | Associated Press

Wisconsin’s top elections official said Tuesday that hundreds of voters who have already cast absentee ballots for the Nov. 4 election must show or send in a photocopy of acceptable photo identification to their local municipal clerk’s office for those ballots to be counted. Also Tuesday, plaintiffs in a lawsuit that challenged the voter ID requirement said they plan to appeal the ruling by three judges on the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to the full court. That ruling on Friday reinstated the voter ID requirement that had been stalled since 2012 by court challenges. “The panel’s decision allowing this law to take effect this close to the election is a recipe for disaster,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “It will create chaos in election administration, resulting in voter confusion and disenfranchisement. The voters of Wisconsin deserve a chance to cast their ballots free of these obstacles.”  Kevin Kennedy, director of the state Government Accountability Board, urged absentee voters to send copies or bring in a valid photo identification such as a driver’s license to their local clerks as soon as possible to ensure their ballots would be counted. IDs can be presented in person or copies can be emailed, faxed or mailed. Kennedy said more than 11,000 absentee ballot requests had been received statewide as of Friday. He said he didn’t know how many had been returned by voters to clerks’ offices but estimated it in the hundreds.

Full Article: Absentee ballots already cast will need photo ID, elections official says : Baraboo News Republic.

Wisconsin: Appeals Court Reinstates Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law | Associated Press

In a stunningly fast decision, a federal appeals court in Chicago reinstated Wisconsin’s voter photo identification law on Friday – just hours after three Republican-appointed judges heard arguments on reactivating the hotly debated law in time for the November election. In a brief order, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said, “The State of Wisconsin may, if it wishes … enforce the photo ID requirement in this November’s elections.” Wisconsin officials wasted no time in saying they would do just that. “We are taking every step to fully implement the voter photo ID law for the November general election,” said Kevin Kennedy, the state’s top election official. “We are now focused on communicating with local election officials and voters, and will have more information about the details next week.”

Full Article: News from The Associated Press.

Editorials: Another blow to campaign finance disclosure in Wisconsin? | Capital Times

There have long been plenty of methods for corporations, special interests and wealthy individuals to pour money into political campaigns without having to publicly disclose their activity, but recent action by Wisconsin regulators suggests even fewer state political groups will be subject to regulation, at least in the near future. Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board, the state agency that monitors elections, recently told a number of electioneering groups — conservative and liberal — that they are welcome to disclose their spending activity and donors, but are not required to. That is a change from previous years in Wisconsin, when, at the very least, groups that expressly advocated for the election or defeat of a candidate have been required to periodically submit financial reports that listed their donors and spending activity. Groups that engaged solely in “issue advocacy,” meaning they did not produce advertising using words such as “vote for” or “vote against,” were not required to disclose. Now, however, the GAB is allowing even groups that engage in a certain amount of express advocacy to forgo disclosure. “We aren’t going to force you to report just because you’re making independent expenditures,” explained Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel for the GAB.

Full Article: Another blow to campaign finance disclosure in Wisconsin? : Ct.

Wisconsin: Elections board upholds ban on observers’ use of cameras | Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal

There will be no selfies — or any other photos taken by observers — at the polls this August. The state elections board decided Monday to support a rule banning election observers from taking photos and videotaping what happens at the polls, including selfies and photos of family members. The state Government Accountability Board, which oversees state elections, has banned observers from using cameras for years and did so again in a 4-2 voice vote Monday. Thomas Barland, John Franke, Gerald Nichol and Elsa Lamelas voted in favor of upholding a section that prohibited cameras in polling areas, while Timothy Vocke and Harold Froelich said the prohibition should be removed to allow for an experiment to see whether cameras could be used responsibly in the partisan primary Aug. 12. The board’s ruling will likely stay in place for the primary election and Nov. 4 general election. The issue arose anew as the board finalized administrative rules on election observers. 

Full Article: Wisconsin elections board upholds ban on observers' use of cameras.

Wisconsin: Elections board to consider lifting ban on poll observers using cameras | Wisconsin State Journal

The ban on election observers using cameras at polling locations may soon be lifted in Wisconsin. That move, which was recommended by the Republican-controlled Legislature, is set to be considered Monday when the state elections board meets to vote on proposed changes to election observer rules. If the Government Accountability Board approves the change, observers might be able to use cameras to photograph and record voters and others at polling places by the Aug. 12 primary, including people getting ballots and registering to vote. Earlier this year, Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill allowing observers to get closer to those they are monitoring. The legislation said that observation areas at polling places can be as close as three feet from the tables where voters obtain ballots or register, or from counting locations — rather than the six feet previously required. Observers would need to remain in those areas while filming or taking photographs of voters, and photographing ballots would still be prohibited.

Full Article: Elections board to consider lifting ban on poll observers using cameras : Wsj.

Wisconsin: State lags behind offering online voter registration | Associated Press

Wisconsin may soon be in a minority of states that don’t allow voters to register online. The state, long considered a model for its high voter turnout and election administration, seems stubbornly old-fashioned as it sticks to paper registration while others move to online systems that are simpler, cheaper and less prone to errors, elections experts told lawmakers recently. Legislators from both parties have expressed interest in online registration, but progress has been stymied by a long-standing fight over same-day voter registration and other party divisions. Two bills that would have allowed online voter registration have failed to pass in the past four years, frustrating elections officials. “Online registration is no longer cutting-edge innovation. It is a well-established and essential tool,” said Kevin Kennedy, director of the Government Accountability Board, which oversees Wisconsin’s elections. “We already have in place what we need to do. We need the legislative authorization to do this.” Eighteen states have already adopted online registration, with Arizona pioneering the approach in 2002 and others following since 2007. Four states have approved the method and are working on the systems. Fifteen more states, including Wisconsin, are considering legislation, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Full Article: State lags behind offering online voter registration - Leader-Telegram: Daily Updates.

Wisconsin: State to Allow Online Voter Registration? | MacIver Institute

The Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections held an informational hearing on the subject of online voter registration on Tuesday. The hearing did not focus on a specific bill, but legislators and speakers discussed how an online voter registration system has been implemented in other states. Currently, 18 states offer online voter registration, and four other states have passed legislation allowing it. Arizona was the first to allow online registration in 2002. Kevin Kennedy, Director and General Counsel of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, spoke for informational purposes only but highlighted many of the benefits of online voter registration. “Legislation that enables online voter registration would make a tremendous leap forward in the administration of elections in Wisconsin,” Kennedy said. “The basic voter registration data will be more accurate if it is entered online by the voter. Online registration eliminates data entry errors resulting from difficult to decipher paper forms.” Kennedy also said that online registration would reduce issues caused by large voter registration drives conducted by third-party organizations.

Full Article: Wisconsin to Allow Online Voter Registration? | MacIver Institute.

Wisconsin: Kevin Kennedy approaches 35th anniversary managing state elections | WisPolitics

Kevin Kennedy’s predecessor was removed as Wisconsin’s top elections official after a few “management issues.” Kennedy recalled that included mistakes in tallying results from the September 1982 primary and a mix-up with the wording for a ballot referendum that was supposed to gauge support on a nuclear weapons freeze. But the language sent to local clerks left the word “weapons” out of the question. So Kennedy has taken the approach that he’s auditioning each day to keep his post as Government Accountability Board director and general counsel. “I don’t stand for election every four years. I get reviewed every day by a citizen board,” Kennedy said in a interview. “As I tell people it takes four votes, not a million votes, to get rid of me.” Kennedy will celebrate 35 years with Wisconsin’s elections agency this week, first as legal counsel and then executive director of the old Elections Board before heading up the GAB, which was created in 2007 and began its work in place of the old Elections and Ethics boards in 2008.

Full Article: Kennedy approaches 35th anniversary managing state elections.

Wisconsin: Elections official testifies in voter ID case | Journal Times

One of the biggest challenges in rolling out Wisconsin’s 2011 photo voter ID law was training the state’s unusually large number of election clerks, a top elections official testified Thursday during a federal hearing over the stalled law. Kevin Kennedy, the head of the state’s Government Accountability Board, said there were about 1,850 clerks in Wisconsin at the time the law was passed. That’s one-sixth the number of clerks in the entire nation, he noted. An attorney asked Kennedy whether it was difficult to train so many workers on the details of the new law. “It’s never an easy process,” he said, shaking his head. Wisconsin is one of a handful of states that administers its elections at the local level, Reid Magney, a Government Accountability Board spokesman, told The Associated Press. Many states run elections at the county level, but Wisconsin defers control to the state’s 1,852 cities, towns and villages. That means the state elections board has to train all 1,852 clerks, who then instruct 30,000 poll workers, Magney said.

Full Article: Wis. elections official testifies in voter ID case.

Wisconsin: Proposed election law changes raise concerns about partisanship | Journal Sentinel

Republicans in the state Senate are looking to overhaul numerous election laws this fall, including one measure that would allow poll workers to serve in communities other than where they live. Critics contended at a public hearing Wednesday that the change could lead to out-of-town partisans replacing poll workers who have long worked on election day in the community where they live. Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), the author of the bills, said she does not intend to replace local poll workers with people from other communities and would consider changes to her proposals. Lazich is the chairwoman of the Senate Elections and Urban Affairs Committee, and she presided over a hearing on her bills Wednesday. Other bills she drafted would give governors more leeway in whom they appoint to the state’s elections and ethics board; require poll workers to record what type of document voters show to prove residency; and change how ballot containers are sealed. Under current law, poll workers generally must come from the municipality in which they work, and often must live in the voting ward.

Full Article: Proposed election law changes raise concerns about partisanship.

Wisconsin: GAB: Four state agencies could be sued if same day voter registration dropped | WSAU

Four state agencies which give out public benefits could be sued if Wisconsin drops Election Day voter registration. Government Accountability Board attorney Mike Haas told the panel Tuesday the departments of Transportation, Health Services, Children and Families, and Workforce Development would probably face lawsuits at some time. That’s because they would be required to carry out the federal Motor Voter act, from which the Badger State is currently exempt because it has same-day registration.

Full Article: GAB: Four state agencies could be sued if same day voter registration dropped - WSAU News/Talk 550AM 99.9FM.

Wisconsin: Residents no longer need to show papers – State accepts electronic documents for same-day registration | electionlineWeekly

While many elections officials across the country are concerned about the U.S. Postal Service’s ability to stay afloat because of the impact it may have on vote-by-mail and absentee voting, elections officials in Wisconsin are faced with another dilemma from the slow death of the mail. No one mails anything anymore — including identifying documents like utility bills. Faced with a growing number of people who receive and pay their bills exclusively online, recently, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board ruled that residents wishing to register to vote at the polls on election day may provide a poll worker with an electronic proof-of-residency via their smartphone. “I can’t see the difference between being shown a screen with an identifying document or being shown a piece of paper,”said Judge Thomas Cane, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “I think we’ve got to bring ourselves up to date.” Staff of the GAB recommended that the board not implement the use of electronic documents, but it wasn’t because they disagree with the practice, it was all about timing. “The staff supported the concept because there is no difference in the information that must be presented or recorded,” explained Kevin Kennedy, director of the GAB. “However, we wanted to get enough input from local election officials before instituting the change. “

Full Article: electionlineWeekly.

Wisconsin: Voter ID Cases Unlikely to be Decided by Election Day | WUWM

A judge is expected to rule next month on a challenge to Wisconsin’s photo ID law. The decision would come weeks before this fall’s primary elections. Yet, as WUWM’s Ann-Elise Henzl reports, it is unlikely the state’s policy will be set in stone, by the time voters go to the polls.
Groups have filed four lawsuits seeking to overturn Wisconsin’s new photo ID requirement. Two are in state court. Until they’re resolved, the mandate that voters present an acceptable identification card is on hold. One challenge is before a court of appeals, with no decision date in sight. The ruling expected in July is in Dane County Circuit Court. The decision will most certainly be appealed, according to Kevin Kennedy, director of the Government Accountability Board. “Realistically, the courts are probably not going to be acting this summer. I think for August we’re just simply trying to say, ‘don’t expect it, but – again – be prepared,’” Kennedy says.

Full Article: WUWM News: Voter ID Cases Unlikely to be Decided by Election Day.