Are Wisconsin’s elections audited yet? No, but….


November 02, 2018 at 10:13pm — If performing election audits is like riding a bicycle, Colorado and a few other states are training for professional racing. 

In about 20 other states, election officials haven’t yet decided whether they want to give up their tricycles, and in about a dozen, officials haven’t even tried a tricycle yet.

And 13 states are still inside, in their pajamas, playing with their paperless touchscreen voting machines.

In Wisconsin, Wisconsin Elections Commission has given our county election officials a two-wheeler with training wheels and told them to get moving.

In other words, we’re on our way.

Before now, officials didn’t check accuracy until after they had declared election results final. That practice, in the words of a recent national comparison of states’ election-security practices, “leaves Wisconsin open to undetected  hacking and other Election-Day problems.”

So the WEC did what it could: It voted to order municipalities to audit 5% of the voting machines immediately after the November 6 election, and to “encourage” county clerks to start experimenting with legitimate election audits. 

All that is good, but here’s the problem: the municipal voting-machine audits have only a limited ability to protect our election results from hacking and errors. But they are the only audits the WEC has authority to order.

Broader election audits could truly protect our elections, but the WEC doesn’t have authority to order those. County clerks are elected constitutional officials. They don’t have to listen to the national and state election authorities if they don’t want to. 

In short, only the voters can hold county clerks accountable. Only we can make sure they heed federal and state authorities’ advice. Only we can make sure the county officials make sure the election results are accurate.

The WEC’s October 4 memo to the county clerks is probably the best little document on election audits that the state elections agency has ever produced. Click on this link to read it for yourself—it’s clear, simple, and complete. No frills. There is no reason why any Wisconsin county clerk cannot follow the WEC’s simple step-by-step instructions—even if they decide at the last minute to add this powerful safeguard to their canvass procedures.

What voters need to do:

It is absolutely worth checking with your county clerk—or in Milwaukee County, the county election commission. Call today; here’s a link to their contact information.

When you ask your county elections clerks about election audits in your county, you might get some good news. Some have already decided to try their hand at election auditing. 

But others are being stubborn, even childish.  The Wisconsin County Clerks Association, sadly, sent a whiny memo to WEC saying that they didn’t want even to be “encouraged” to conduct audits. Among other things, the WCCA thinks no more than one race each election should be verified. They even told WEC that any hand counts would be “inherently inaccurate.”  (In truth, Wisconsin’s county clerks are perfectly capable of conducting an accurate hand count if they want to.)

So contact your county clerk.  When you ask for valid, routine election audits, you’re merely repeating what federal and state authorities have already told your count clerk.  Accept no excuses:

  • Your county clerk has the time to ensure accuracy and security. The entire audit process shouldn’t take more than two days if they assign or bring in enough staff and volunteers. They have two weeks in which to schedule it. Some of their counterparts in other states do more auditing with even less time.
  • Your county clerk has the staff. Any competent chief inspector (that’s a head poll worker) could easily lead the audit—it’s not rocket science—while the county clerk keeps on with his or her other duties.
  • Your county clerk has the budget. The only expense should be the hand-counters, and the clerk could accept volunteers. If none of the poll workers want to help (and they do), the clerk can check with the Rotary Club or the high school social studies teacher. There’s no reason high school students cannot do this. The WEC has offered to reimburse the clerks up to $300 to cover the costs, if it costs even that much.

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