State Election Watchdogs at the GAB Yet to Comment[MILWAUKEE...] During early voting on Monday, Milwaukee election officials did not check newly registered voters against a Department of Corrections list of felons who are ineligible to vote, the MacIver News Service has learned.
Moreover, the problem may be more widespread than just polling locations in Milwaukee.
According to Wisconsin Statutes:
The board shall provide to each municipal clerk a list prepared for use at each municipal clerk's office showing the name and address of each person whose name appears on the list provided by the department of corrections under s. 301.03 (20m) as ineligible to vote on the date of the election, whose address is located in the municipality, and whose name does not appear on the registration list for that municipality.
"I alerted officials at the Ziedler building that they were not in compliance with state law at 9:40am on Monday," an Milwaukee-based election observer told MNS. "They told me they never received a list from the GAB and appeared to make no effort to find one."
The Republican Party of Wisconsin has filed an open records request to provide the names of all individuals who have cast absentee ballots in the City of Milwaukee for the November 6th general election.
"Outside City Hall yesterday, Mayor Barrett was posing for pictures with actress Ashley Judd. But inside, the City of Milwaukee was failing to use the state's ineligible voter list for individuals registering and casting absentee ballots," Nathan Conrad Communications Director for the Republican Party of Wisconsin said. "Mayor Barrett and his hand-picked director of the City of Milwaukee Election Commission, Neil Albrecht, have clearly dropped the ball. It is incumbent upon both Mr. Albrecht and Mayor Barrett to begin following standard procedures and protecting the integrity of the election process."
The GOP wants details from Barrett's poll workers.
"Today, we're asking the City of Milwaukee to provide the Republican Party with not only the names of the absentee ballot voters, but to immediately begin the process to verify that no ineligible voter casts a ballot," said Conrad.
The election observer who spoke to thee MacIver News Service said that Milwaukee election officials claim they are now checking new registrants against a list they have access to via on-site computers. However she cannot confirm this.
"There is no way from where I am positioned that I can check to confirm that," she said, alluding to designated area for election observers at the Milwaukee polling location.
Meanwhile, yesterday the MacIver News Service reported that as early voting began across Wisconsin, the state's election watchdogs may have made it harder for election observers to ensure poll workers use proper procedures.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, through their executive director Rick Esenberg, sent a letter to Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, asking the GAB to issue clarifications on where election observers stand and what documents they have the right to see.
Under state law, election observers must be positioned so that they can observe "all public aspects of the voting process." However, Esenberg says recent GAB guidance to election observer organizations has undermined that requirement by stating that observers should be kept at least six feet away from registration tables.
Esenberg believes that distance may prevent observers from seeing whether registration forms are filled out completely with properly-documented proofs of residence and even hearing voters stating their names and addresses.
"Just as it is important to avoid unnecessary interference with balloting, it is crucial that the public have confidence in the process," Esenberg's letter stated. "This is particularly so in light of reports that election officials have registered voters with improper identifying documents."
These problems are exacerbated, according to WILL, by the GAB's recent decision to allow voters to present electronic proofs of residence. Observers are likely to have an extremely difficult time viewing documents on devices as small as smartphones with three- or four-inch screens from six feet away.
Last night, the GAB executive Director Kevin Kennedy sent a letter to Esenberg, dismissing his concerns. In part, the letter reads:
"In short, our application of the law does not permit observing the public aspects of the voting process in an up-close manner, or looking over the shoulder of the poll workers, or interfering or distracting the voters. The voting process is readily observable even if the detailed documentation cannot be reviewed until after Election Day by an inspection of the public documents.
"In your correspondence you specifically raise questions about the application of the "six-foot" rule and assert that it compromises the rights of observers. As background, the "six-foot" rule was established as part of a set of emergency administrative rules adopted by the former State Elections Board and the Government Accountability Board. Specifically, the Government Accountability Board published the observer rules first in 2008 and then again in 2010, with many opportunities for public comment, which resulted in some revisions to the observer policies.
"The six- to twelve-foot distance contained in the rules was developed over the past four years in consultation with organizations, including the two major political parties, which regularly train and deploy observers to polling places and with the input of local election officials. The language of the rule recognizes that this distance may need to be adjusted depending on unique circumstances related to any given polling location, such as unusual noise levels or blocked sight lines for example. For all practical purposes the "six-foot" rule operates as a guideline for designating observation areas; it is not absolute. This process has worked well in all elections since it was first implemented."In the last two days, the GAB has not responded to repeated requests for comment regarding the ineligible felon voter list debacle in Milwaukee and whether the list was ignored in other locations during early voting as well.
We'll have more on this story as it develops.