The Election Integrity Action Team made some good progress in 2013--I'm most pleased with GAB's increased interest in post-election auditing (which I suspect is ENTIRELY our doing!) and with the groundwork we laid for an educational program to increase our fellow citizens' awareness of the issues with privatized electronic vote-counting.
In meetings last year, we decided to focus efforts on three main objectives:
- Educational program: Improve awareness and understanding of election integrity issues among both elections officials and our fellow citizens, with the intent of enabling verification of the accuracy of Wisconsin election results.
- Legislative program: Improve Wisconsin statutes to require cost-effective measures to verify the accuracy of Wisconsin election results.
- Organization building: Increase the capability of the Wisconsin election integrity movement to promote improvements in Wisconsin’s elections and to respond to challenges threatening election integrity in Wisconsin.
Post-election audits: I think our work in this area increased awareness of this issue 1,000% over what it was before the November 2012 elections. In one sense, that was easy to do because so few were paying attention to it--among either elections officials or citizens. But while we were observing those audits in November 2012, I would never have dared to dream that a year later, GAB staff would release its first-ever-in-history public report on the results of the audits and that GAB members would ask staff tough, insightful questions about the audits. And even better: that the Board would then vote to instruct staff to prepare a summary of the issues surrounding post-election audits for their January teleconference so that they could tackle the issues at their March meeting and make plans to improve the audits that will follow the November 2014 elections.
Considering that no one else was pushing for better post-election audits, I think our work can take ALL the credit. I know that our written report on our observations of those audits is getting useful circulation: when I offered a copy to Legislative Audit Bureau staff I met at the December GAB meeting, they told me they already had a copy!
We're going to have to stay on top of this issue, but both during the December GAB meeting and in one-on-one conversations following the meeting, I was quite impressed with the board members' expressed awareness of the need to verify election results and their commitment to moving in that direction. Can I dare to hope that at this time next year, we'll be celebrating new state laws that require, rather than limit, effective post-election audits?
Educational program: Karen (me), Mary Lou Sharpee, and John Washburn all got good experience delivering educational programs this year--all three of them with an all-day booth at Fighting Bobfest; Karen and Mary Lou with a 'road show' introducing the basics of the issues around privatized electronic voting (delivered to grassroots groups in Waunakee and Deforest, and at a regional meeting of grassroots groups); and Karen and John with workshops at the Democracy Convention in August.
What I hope we can make progress on in 2014:
Getting a few more people to take on active leadership within the group. While we have sharp, committed people involved in the group now, I'm the only one who considers this my main civic commitment. I get great support when I, for example, ask for comment and editing on our written products (seriously--they were greatly improved by others' edits!), but I can't do it all. For example, when family commitments this summer caused me to fall down on the job of scheduling meetings, we stopped meeting. When I threw myself into preparing for the Democracy Convention workshops, progress stopped on our other goals of presenting our road show to grassroots groups around the state.
I'm not going to give up or burn out, but I am hoping that during 2014, at least one other person will join me in actively helping to support, manage, and build the group and keep our activities, well, active. Support from national experts and friendly groups in other states is available and getting better every month; I'd love to be able to take more advantage of it.
Training and supporting citizens in poll-closing observations for the November 2014 elections. Getting trained citizens to observe poll closings around the state would, I believe, be of more value in protecting our elections than even getting our laws changed. You don't have to suspect our local elections officials of corruption to realize that as normally flawed, overly busy and under-supported human beings, their actions benefit from independent observation. In my experience, election workers actively appreciate the interest and shared information. At my own polling place (Town of Westport), we had some delightful conversation when I explained what I was looking for as I observed the poll-closing procedures. And poll workers were very interested in the stories--news to them--of the types of things that can go wrong with voting machines and that their attentive management of the machines might prevent or detect.
We have a lot of work to do, though, before November. We need to complete the training materials; arouse interest among grassroots groups (or anyone we can, actually); keep local elections officials informed of our plans so that they will be supportive rather than resistant; educate people enough so that they'll consider doing a few hours of volunteer work after the polls close on election night; and organize the effort so that we can get the most value out of their observations.
So, here's to the coming year! If anyone wants to join in the fun and help make this happen, drop me a line at [email protected]!