Making sure election results reflect the will of the people

Partisan politicians have always looked for ways to influence elections' outcomes that go beyond offering us attractive candidates. Many of these interfere with our ability to exercise our right to self-government, such as gerrymandering; tampering with voter registration requirements; or adopting requirements like poll taxes and photo ID that make it difficult or costly to vote. Aggressive partisans cannot do these things in secret, so these efforts attract significant attention and debate.

However, reliance on computerized voting machines has provided opportunity for new forms of manipulation--along with additional risks in the form of random malfunction or human error in set-up or operation of the machines. In the absence of routine post-election audits, electronic miscounts are not likely to catch the attention of candidates and voters. We place such complete trust in the machines and their programmers that even local elections clerks might not notice if the voting machines' Election-Day output is incorrect.

The Wisconsin Election Integrity Action Team supports any and all efforts that will help to ensure the official results of our elections accurately reflect the will of the people. These include:

  1. Fair apportionment. Boundaries between legislative districts should be drawn in nonpartisan, transparent processes that result in districts that provide every citizen equal representation will all other citizens. We support the work of Common Cause and other groups to reform Wisconsin's redistricting process before the 2020 census.

  2. Competent nonpartisan election administration. We oppose any effort to introduce more partisanship into elections administration, such as by replacing Wisconsin's nonpartisan Government Accountability Board with a more partisan state elections authority.

  3. Inclusive voter eligibility. We support the work of Disability Rights Wisconsin to assist individuals with disabilities, and that of the American Civil Liberties Union in the area of felons' rights.

  4. Convenient, accurate voter registration. Wisconsin voters need to be ready to defend our current registration systems from legislative proposals that would make voter registration more difficult, such as limiting the hours during which people can register or abolishing Election-Day registration. We are eager to support any political leaders who can propose new ways to make voter registration more convenient, such as universal automatic registration upon one's 18th birthday.

  5. Convenient, secure voting. We support the efforts of the League of Women Voters, the American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause, and some municipal clerks in their efforts to make sure every eligible Wisconsin voter has an acceptable voter ID before the 2016 elections. As soon as it becomes politically feasible, we will need to work together to repeal the photo ID requirement. 

Our primary focus now, however, is on that area of election integrity that is most overlooked by both citizens and civic groups: Making sure our election results are accurately tabulated.

Additional information:

  • Electronic Elections Technology: The Basics.
    Information at this link explains that voting machines themselves are not the issue. Our management of them is. Voting machines are nothing more than simple computers, no more mysterious or infallible than the ones that scan our groceries. The quality of the election results they tabulate is no better or worse than the quality of the work that goes into maintaining and operating them.
  • The risk of electronic miscount and actual cases.
    Information at this link explains that hundreds of known miscounts have been documented and describes a few incidents. No one has any idea how many other elections have been miscounted, because post-election auditing is still in its infancy.

  • The need for verification and current Wisconsin law.
    Information at this link describes the current practices of Wisconsin elections officials, who now routinely certify raw computer output as our final, official election results without checking its accuracy. Fortunately, Wisconsin law provides them with a paper record of every ballot cast, so they have the record they need to verify the voting machines' verdict, if they choose to.

  • Prudent and practical solutions
    Information at this link draws on the work of national experts and other states to describe how voting-machine output could efficiently and transparently be verified before out county boards of canvass certify it as final.