I wish you had seen this.

March 11, 2019  -- The Wisconsin Elections Commission met today, and I stayed for most of the agenda.


One agenda item had to do with fixing the snafus that caused a voter-registration list maintenance effort in 2017 to incorrectly 'deactivate' thousands of validly registered voters. (You may have heard such efforts described as 'purges,' a relatively pejorative term that is fitting whenever voter-list maintenance is used as a voter-suppression tactic.)

Among other things, so many voters were incorrectly removed from the registration lists that poll workers for the past several elections have had to work with two sets of poll books--the regular one for unaffected voters, and a supplemental list of voters who had been struck from the rolls but who would be allowed to vote if they showed up on Election Day and attested that they had not, in fact, moved.

There are dozens of reasons, it turns out, why State of Wisconsin computers got confused about whether these voters had moved. They have to do with things like registering a vehicle with your personal name but your business address, or buying a car for your college student in La Crosse and registering it there instead of where you vote. I won't go into all the details. If you're curious, you can read the staff report starting on page 72 of this document.

I spend a lot of time reading about election-integrity problems in other states. That means I read about a lot of skuzzy partisan machinations.

I also spend some time talking with local election officials. That, unfortunately, exposes me to much whining, excuse-making, buck-passing and "no law says I have to" attitude.

Here's why the WEC discussion impressed me so much that I had to come home and write this blog post.

The discussion was pure, unadulterated problem-solving, start to finish. No one was looking for a partisan angle or opportunity. Not one single commissioner or staff member was whining. No energy was wasted on self-protective defensiveness, or on denying or minimizing the problems. I heard no attempts at buck-passing, no excuses.

Unlike what I hear when I talk to many local election officials about vote tabulation, no one at WEC was pointing out that statutes require them to do the work but don't require them to do it right. It didn't seem to cross any Commissioner's mind to avoid their managerial obligation to detect, analyze, and correct problems until someone passes a law forcing them to do that, and paying them extra for it.

WEC commissioners and staff were straight-up committed to discovering the extent of the problems and what caused them, and to making sure they never happen again. Commissioners asked staff for hard data on error rates, and made sure that staff are not sending any more deactivation notices until the problems are fixed. Staff, for their part, were as committed to getting past problems corrected and future problems averted as the Commissioners were.

This is what responsible election administrators look like.

I wish all voters could have seen what I saw today. And I wish some reporter would write about it when good work gets done.


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  • Frank Henry
    commented 2019-03-30 16:43:28 -0500
    Karen McKim, et al,….. Let us hope that the WEC end
    recommendation calls for recognition and granting
    to all individual voters their constitutional 32 Full
    Voting Rights….!!! . . . . . Thanks and Good Luck.
  • Karen McKim
    commented 2019-03-12 08:51:34 -0500
    The poor state of journalism today.
    Yesterday, the WEC had these excellent reports and discussion:
    1) Reviewed security initiatives protecting the voter-registration system;
    2) Grappled with problems that create confusing election-night reporting;
    3) Reviewed the results of last November’s voting-machine audits and ordered further investigation into issues with a certain model of touchscreen machine that were revealed in the audit;
    4) Reviewed the results of the few voluntary county audits that were done last fall, and staff’s progress in exploring possibilities for RLA in Wisconsin; and reconfirmed their commitment to continuing and expanding election-audit practices;
    5) Had the discussion about problems with voter-registration maintenance that I described above; and

    They also received a report on the inconsequential "problem’ that affected a maximum of 24 votes out of 2.4 million cast in two elections—that were mostly caused by voter confusion.

    And the Wisconsin State Journal and other newspapers reported ONLY on that last, silly item.