With the next court date in Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s lawsuit two weeks before Election Day, city clerks around Wisconsin are becoming concerned.
Van Hollen sued the Government Accountability Board in mid-September over their decision to check new voter registration starting from Aug. 6, 2008, onward, instead of going back to January 2006, as specified by the Help America Vote Act of 2002.
Should Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi rule in favor of Van Hollen Oct. 23, clerks around Wisconsin would be given less than two weeks to perform voter registration checks on new voters registered since January 2006.�
According to Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl, this would mean checking nearly 85,000 new voter registrations, which would take an estimated 689 hours to complete. They will instead have to do this in less than two weeks, while simultaneously preparing for the election.
“I don’t have the personnel on board to do those checks,” said Milwaukee Executive Director of Election Commission Susan Edman. “We will have to bring on additional personnel.”
So far, HAVA checks have had a 25 percent fail rate in Milwaukee, according to Edman. With each red flag, the commission must then follow up, checking nicknames, middle names, birthday dates and mailing addresses.�
According to Edman, it is not that they are unwilling to do those checks and follow up on all the details; it’s the timing that has them worried.�
“Really, the bottom line is, this couldn’t come at the worse time,” Edman said. “We need to focus on putting the election together, which takes an enormous amount of time, and we can’t afford to miss anything.”
Green Bay City Clerk Doug Daul agreed, saying his office would make every attempt to comply should Van Hollen win the lawsuit, though it would be difficult for most cities.
“I think it’s going to be difficult, particularly for the larger communities,” Daul said. “This is the largest election in the four-year election [cycle], and requires the most work of every election. There are going to be a lot of absentee balloting before, which take a lot of office time.”
In Green Bay, 50 voter registrations have been red flagged since Aug. 6, 2008 due to typos, nicknames or wrong middle initials. This is to be expected when using two separate databases to crosscheck one set of data, Daul said.
“Four out of the six Government Accountability judges didn’t pass the HAVA check,” Daul said. “Their date was wrong, and you know those people are legit.”
According to Edman, should Sumi rule in favor of Van Hollen, the Government Accountability Board would not be able to get city clerks the list of those voters that need checking until at least a week later, leaving less than seven days to get all the checks done while simultaneously preparing for Election Day.
“If there are only 100 names, that will only take us an hour,” Edman said. “If it’s 10,000, it’s not going to get done.”