The Legislative Audit Bureau’s report on the Government Accountability Board has generated a great deal of discussion, but out of that discourse has come some misinformation that needs to be cleared up. I want to assure the Legislature and the public that the GAB takes illegal voting seriously, and that strong protections are in place to prevent felons from voting in Wisconsin. In the relatively few cases in which felons have voted in recent years, they will not escape prosecution due to delayed felon voting audits by the GAB. Prior to every election, the GAB provided Wisconsin’s 1,852 municipal clerks with a list from the Department of Corrections of felons ineligible to vote. The clerks inactivated the felons’ listings on the Statewide Voter Registration System so that they could not receive an absentee ballot, register to vote late in the clerk’s office or register and vote if they showed up on election day. The GAB routinely followed up to ensure clerks were inactivating those felons.
Furthermore, after each election, clerks entered election day voter registrations into the system, which compared them to the DOC’s list of felons who were ineligible to vote. When SVRS found matches, clerks made referrals directly to their county’s district attorney.
Wisconsin statutes require the GAB to conduct a post-election felon audit, which is a final check to ensure that municipal clerks have done their job to identify any felon voters who slipped through the cracks by registering to vote on election day. The GAB has expanded that audit to include any felon who may have voted in the election, not just those who registered on election day.
Unfortunately, there were problems with the post-election felon audits conducted prior to 2010 because the computer produced a significant number of false positive matches. In one case, charges were filed against an innocent person based solely upon the computer match. The results were sufficiently flawed that some district attorneys told the GAB they did not want further referrals.