Wisconsin legislators met Wednesday to hear public testimony on six bills regarding administrative rules on Election Day, including a bill requiring listing proof of residency on the poll lists for first-time voters.
Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, lead author of the six bills and Committee on Elections and Urban Affairs chair, said the administration of the recount of ballots in Racine on June 5, 2012 and unsolved voter fraud investigations in Milwaukee prompted her to write the bills.
Committee member Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, questioned the need for the type of proof of residence to be listed for first-time voters, and said the requirement could disenfranchise minority, senior and student voters.
Lazich said her intent is not to suppress minority, senior, or student votes, but suppress voter fraud that occurs when citizens vote twice.
Committee member Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, echoed Taylor’s sentiments and said, “Every qualified voter has an opportunity to vote, and we can’t put obstacles in their way.”
Despite their concerns, Lazich said investigations in Milwaukee County on possible “double-voting” cannot continue because there is no documentation of residence listed, leaving no paper trail for investigators to follow.
Scott Foval, regional political coordinator for People for the American Way, was critical of Lazich’s bills because they fix a problem that does not exist.
“Our evidence in looking at votes in Wisconsin over the past 10 years shows there isn’t a problem of voter fraud,” Foval said. “I think any member of the [Government Accountability Board] would be hard pressed to demonstrate a voter fraud or double voting problem in this state.”
Jamie Aulik, director of Manitowoc County Clerks office, was also critical of Lazich’s reasoning behind the bills because the instances in Racine and Milwaukee are small instances that are not representative of election administration statewide.
Lazich cited temporary workers hired by a temp agency administering the Racine election as the crux of issues, as many were incompetent in Election Day protocol.
Lazich described the election in Racine as “alarming.”
“[Ballot containers] were a third, fourth, or half open with tape like painters tape trailing off into the distance,” Lazich said. “It was alarming and concerning to people watching this process, wondering what’s going on with the bags with the condition they were in.”
Under Lazich’s bills, representatives from both political parties must be present in sealing of ballot containers and each job position to ensure both parties have trusted workers.
Aulik said involving political parties could be problematic, as workers are still expected to act in a nonpartisan manner.
Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said the potential politicization of poll workers and their party affiliations is also concerning.
“Think about it from your position as a senator. If your county chair has 20 poll workers, what would you tell your party chair to do with them”? McDonell said. “Do you want them working the polls, or do you want them knocking on doors for you?”