Citizen Action for Election Integrity

Our voting rights don’t end when the polls close. We have a right to cast a vote, and we have a right to know our votes were counted accurately.

When someone interferes with our ability to cast our votes, we cannot help but notice. It’s obvious when voters are denied registration or struck from the registration rolls for no reason…when voting is made inconvenient or expensive by difficult ID requirements…when districts are gerrymandered so that our votes hardly matter.  The Wisconsin Election Integrity Action Team supports the work of Common Cause, the League of Women VotersDisability Rights Wisconsin, and the American Civil Liberties Union among other groups in their work on these obvious threats.

Interference with counting our votes would be less obvious. Even the best local security cannot prevent all miscounts, both deliberate and inadvertent–and those miscounts occur within the computers, completely out of our sight.

Hackers are far from the only risk. Most voting-machine miscounts are probably unintentional–programming error or machine malfunction. And when the question is limited to deliberate miscounts in the elections system, cybersecurity experts tell us the biggest threat is corrupt insiders, not external hackers. Literally thousands of people have insider access to our voting systems–from the service technicians that maintain the machines between elections to the subcontracted programmer for the voting machine company to the local government officials and even poll workers.

Despite these risks, Wisconsin’s elections officials do not routinely check the accuracy of Election-Day output. This is contrary to the recommendations of every national elections-administration expert. Even the most trustworthy of our county clerks could be certifying miscounted election results without even noticing. 

We do not tolerate refusal to audit in any other business or government function. If votes were dollars, can you imagine a situation in which candidates would not demand transparent, routine audits of election results?

  • Can you imagine a bank finding thousands of errors in an audit of its ATMs, and the Wisconsin State Journal reporting “No major flaws, mostly just human error“, like it did when thousands of votes were discovered to have been miscounted?
  • Can you imagine a state law like our election recount law being applied to municipal property tax bills–that is, allowing municipal clerks to finalize the bills (election results) without checking their accuracy and then providing no way for property owners (voters) to force a recalculation (recount) if they suspected an error larger than 1%? (Right now, Wisconsin law allows no recounts when the victory margin is over 1%, and forces the losing candidate to pay the full cost of the recount if the margin was over 0.25%. We would NEVER be that cavalier about computer-tabulated property tax bills!)
  • Election officials frequently say there’s no need for audits because they have never yet noticed a problem. But any board of directors would fire an executive who refused routinely to audit the business’s books until he saw evidence that an embezzler was already at work.

Sooner or later, Wisconsin election officials will have to accept checking accuracy as a routine part of their job as managers.

Wisconsin election officials could be routinely auditing election results now. They have the paper ballots. They have as much time for the canvass (review before certification) as their counterparts in any other state. Using modern methods, election audits might even be affordable within their current budgets.

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