In a world where rabid partisans continuously seek new ways to manipulate elections, a grassroots organization with a democracy-protection mission must be ready to defend honest, fair elections.
So Wisconsin Grassroots Network has Election Integrity Workgroup. Now we need to focus: What is our mission? What do we want to accomplish?
In the past year, we worked on one goal:
Our elections must provide accurate and verifiable results. This is the voting-machine issue. Rapid adoption of electronic voting technology has outpaced our election officials’ ability to ensure its accuracy. Wisconsin’s current system produces little if any post-election verifiable proof that the voting machines counted accurately on Election Day. Regardless of whether any elections have yet been stolen or ruined by machine malfunction, the measures standing in the way of future shenanigans and malfunctions are barely better than decorative.
We want every ballot to be a voter-recorded paper ballot, and in jurisdictions where those votes are counted by machine (whether at the precinct or centrally), we want a much more rigorous, transparent, and effective system of auditing before election results are certified. A strong auditing program would deter electronic tampering of every type and could identify unplanned malfunctions in time to hand-count the ballots before winners are certified.
- Jurisdictions that now rely on hand-counted paper ballots should continue to do so;
- Jurisdictions that use touch-screen voting machines should adopt rigorous practices of reminding voters to check the paper trail and should get rid of those machines as soon as possible in favor of systems that allow each voter to create the official record of his or her own vote; and
- Jurisdictions that rely on computer tabulations of scanned paper ballots should conduct transparent audits of each machine’s Election Day accuracy before certifying election results.
There’s still plenty of work to do related to accurate vote-counting. As soon as possible—in the April 2013 elections (for which no audits are currently required)—we need to make sure someone—either official or citizen volunteers—conducts publicly observable post-election audits of the machines’ accuracy. If it must be citizen volunteers, we need to protect our ability to access and view the ballots, because open-records practices are currently under attack at both the state and county levels.
In addition, many counties, including Dane, are in the process of replacing aging voting equipment with newer systems. We need to make sure they select voting systems that rely on voter-marked paper ballots and that do not rely on proprietary vote-counting software or that are connected to the Internet in ways that make hacking easy.
The voting-machine issues will continue to need a lot of organizing and a lot of work. However, additional electoral issues are important, too.
We can choose additional projects by watching the hyperpartisans in Wisconsin’s legislature and being ready to fight whatever they try to do to make it harder for citizens to register and to vote and to have their vote matter when they do. Thus far, hyperpartisans have enacted several damaging policies that need to be fixed:
- Requiring government-issued photo IDs at the polls;
- Redistricting to exaggerate the electoral power of Republican voters;
and have indicated interest in:
- Making the currently weak, nonpartisan Government Accountability Board into a stronger, more partisan agency;
- Ending election-day registration;
- Conducting overly aggressive purges of voters from the registration rolls, taking out eligible voters along with ineligible ones;
- Allocating electoral college votes by congressional district rather than by popular vote;
- Having state legislatures select US Senators rather than popular vote; and
- Probably more that I haven’t heard about or cannot remember just now.
We can also look ahead and press for changes we want. For example, we could be working on larger reforms that remove partisan officials, such as county clerks, from elections administration. Or, we could be working in concert with other groups to reform the redistricting process so that the damage done after the 2010 census is corrected in the redistricting that will follow the 2020 census. The long lead time could work to our advantage: elected officials are more likely to enact rules that force their successors to play fair than they are to force themselves to play fair.
What are the voting-related issues that most concern you? Which ones should the WGN Election Integrity Workgroup focus on?