By Brian Fraley
A MacIver Institute Perspective
Newsflash: The Government Accountability Board has reacted to concerns about problems with the recent recall election in Racine.
From their recent press release:
"Our system of open, transparent elections depends on members of the public serving as observers at polling places," said Kennedy. "However, in recent elections we have received disturbing reports and complaints about unacceptable, illegal behavior by observers. Voters expect a calm setting in which to exercise their right to vote."
As part of its "Back to Basics" plan for the Fall Election Cycle, the G.A.B. is putting an emphasis on training local election officials to deal with boisterous, disruptive election observers, said Elections Division Administrator Nat Robinson.
"Observers may not speak to or intimidate voters. Poll workers do not have to put up with observers who bully them or question their actions," Robinson said. "The Chief Inspector is in charge at each polling place, and must be obeyed. Our training will underscore that Chief Inspectors are empowered by law to order troublemakers to leave, and to call law enforcement if they refuse."
You read that right. That GAB is disturbed by poll watchers. While there were a couple of unacceptable instances where poll watchers spoke poll workers instead of chief inspectors at polling sites, rational observers know the far larger issue in the June 5 recall election was the integrity of the registration process and activities (or lack their of) of election officials themselves.
For full disclosure, in that same release, the GAB did offer an explanation of the rules and regulation regarding voter registration, but note the difference in tone and urgency:
"It is important for voters to know their rights and responsibilities," said Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the G.A.B. "Being well informed is the best defense against complications at the polling place, including frivolous challenges to a voter's eligibility."
"To exercise your right to vote, you must be properly registered," Kennedy said. "When you register in the 20 days before an election or on Election Day, it is your responsibility to provide proper proof of residence." It can be a current and valid Wisconsin driver license or state ID card, but also a tax bill, a lease, a utility or cell phone bill, or a paycheck. It cannot be a sales receipt or a piece of junk mail. A list of acceptable documents is on the Board's website: http://gab.wi.gov/elections-voting/voters/registration-voting.
The two-page flier titled "Wisconsin Voter Rights and Responsibilities" also includes important information about observing elections and challenging voters. It is available online at http://gab.wi.gov/rights.
That was their reaction to the mess in Racine?
Yes. Yes it was.
Consider that it is known that many voters may have been mistakenly given ballots without having signed the poll list as required by Wisconsin law; Some voters were given a ballot without providing their address at all.
Perhaps most troubling of all are the revelations that some ballot bags were torn open and resealed either on or since election night and the chain of custody for these bags and the ballots within them can not be ascertained.
There are conflicting accounts about the status of those bags. Poll workers, chief election inspectors and officials at the City of Racine Clerk's office can't agree on who did what with the ballot bags.
We also know that some ballots were prematurely initialed, making them 'live' and ripe for fraud.
Roseanne Kuemmel, a member of the Racine County Board of Canvassers responded to a comment made by a Democrat official during the recall recount there that this is 'much ado about nothing.'
"We don't feel that it's nothing. I am very concerned seeing this stuff and we want to know why it is happening and prevent it from happening again...We're very concerned with what we've seen during this recount. The sloppy handling of the ballots, it's just atrocious," she told the MacIver News Service.
Clearly, the staff and leadership of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board do not share Kuemmel's concern. They haven't even commented on the Racine Clerk's failure to properly follow procedures.
No, instead, the GAB announced it intends to 'crackdown' on citizens who show up at polling places and discover the messes the GAB chooses rather ignore.
Unfortunately, we've seen this type of reaction from the leadership and staff of the GAB before.
During the Walker recall petition process they had to be shamed by public outrage and a court order to create a searchable database of petition signatures. Even then, their efforts paled in comparison to the volunteer Verify the Recall effort. The GAB only included the names of the signatories, the effort by We the People of the Republic and Wisconsin Grandsons of Liberty was a searchable, sortable database of names and addresses.
Oh, and about the previously mentioned court order? Indeed it took a judge to force the GAB to find and eliminate duplicate signatures from those petitions. Left to their own devices, they were only going to reject obviously fraudulent addresses and would merely note any fraudulent names and duplicate addresses they came across. The burden of actually enforcing election law, they argued, fell upon the people under threat of recall.
Now, we at the MacIver Institute got some flack for running video of GAB staff saying that if a signature representing Mickey Mouse or Adolph Hitler would only be rejected if contested. But it was their testimony not ours. We didn't invent the controversy, we merely reported on it.
When it comes to the GAB and possible election fraud in Wisconsin, their first reaction is always denial. They may eventually, albeit reluctantly, do the bare minimum to address some issues that arise. But don't count on them to break a sweat.
Consider the GAB's official reaction to legislative calls for a thorough investigation of the events in Racine:
"Speaking frankly on behalf of our agency and local election officials, absent direct evidence, I believe continued unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud tend to unnecessarily undermine the confidence that voters have in election officials and the results of the election," Kevin Kennedy, GAB Director, wrote to Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald in response to a letter from Assembly leadership. "I hope that, as an elected official, you would also agree that there is little benefit in promoting unsupported allegations questioning the credibility of the election process and the work of local clerks and election inspectors."
Clearly the current GAB has no intention of aggressively pursuing the truth about what happened in Racine, how it happened, who was responsible and how such a mess can be avoided in the future.
However, there is one thing Wisconsin citizens can count on the GAB aggressively and diligently do: respond to is criticism and defend their own reputation.
Nevertheless, the reputation of the GAB continues to slide thanks to their latest laissez faire attitude toward the problems in Racine.
Again, they appear embarrassed that everyday citizens are more concerned about detecting and preventing election fraud than they, the supposed 'election watchdogs,' are.
Not embarrassed enough to take the threat seriously, mind you. Just embarrassed enough to try to stifle efforts to monitor and report election fraud.
Nothing to see here...