Wis. Board Members Fail Voter Checks
MADISON - More than half of the state Government Accountability Board's members failed when their names were run through new voter identification checks as a test, the board said Thursday.
The federal Help America Vote Act required each state to build a statewide voter registration list and cross-check names on it with other state databases to confirm identities and addresses. Wisconsin's system went online Aug. 6 and local election officials have been checking the information on anyone who has registered to vote since then.
As of last week, the clerks had detected more than 4,000 non-matches out of about 19,500 names checked. State election officials said most those glitches can be traced to variations in names, such as leaving out spaces and apostrophes in compound names or leaving out a middle initial.
Fearing fraud could mar this fall's presidential election, the state Republican Party demanded the board cross-reference anyone who has registered to vote since January 2006 and force anyone who fails and doesn't correct the discrepancies to vote by provisional ballot.
The board refused, saying that would be an imposition on municipal clerks and voters. The board then asked Hansen to run their names to demonstrate how widespread innocent mismatches are in the systems.
Four of the board's six members came up as non-matches.
Nat Robinson, elections division administrator for the board, said in a statement the red flags resulted from differences in first names, last names, middle initials and a one wrong birth date between the registrant list and state Department of Transportation data.
For example, board Chairman Thomas Cane goes by his middle name and has an initial "R" in front of his name on his driver's license. That initial caused him to fail the cross-check, Robinson said.
"It's clear the data quality issue must be addressed before this cross-checking function can be used to ensure reliable data," Robinson said.
Municipal clerks can correct obvious discrepancies. If the differences are beyond them, they send a letter to the registrant notifying them of the problem and asking them to correct it.
Robinson said the board will continue to ask local election officials to request voter information in the form it's printed on other documents such as driver's licenses.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)