The Election Integrity Action Team is committed to protecting all aspects of Wisconsin's elections. We are currently focusing our efforts on the appropriate use and management of election technology, which we believe is the weakest link in Wisconsin's election practices and the one that gets least serious attention.
Unlike managers who use computers in every other function in business or government, Wisconsin elections officials do not routinely check their computers' Election-Day output for errors or evidence of hacks. Incredible, but true: They could be certifying miscounted output as our final election results and would not even know it. Our grocery store scanners get more prudent IT management than that!
Like any other computer, voting machines have their benefits but are liable to produce incorrect output at unpredictable times, due to a variety of causes. Miscounts have been caused by human error in setting them up for a new election. Mechanical or electronic malfunction have affected vote totals. Finally, every prudent adult now accepts that fact that no computer is immune to hacking--deliberate manipulation.
Yet when you cast a ballot in Wisconsin, there is less than one chance in 130 that anyone will check the accuracy of your voting machine's output, and an even smaller chance anyone will check it in time to correct any errors. On top of that, recounts are pretty much a thing of the past. Our legislature recently (May 2015) amended the law to greatly reduce the already-tiny number of races subject to recount. Now, 'losing' candidates have to pay the full cost of a recount even when electronic tabulations indicate a victory margin of less than one-quarter of one percent (0.25%). Can you imagine a bank demanding the customer pay the full cost of their audit? No, because in banks and every other business or government function except elections, routine verification of computer output is willingly accepted as a basic, routine management responsibility.
The good news is that Wisconsin's local elections officials--particularly county clerks--currently have all the statutory authority they need to routinely verify machine-tabulated results, and efficient methods are available if they choose to use them. What's missing? Citizens who are willing to fight for democracy by asking, demanding, and supporting our elections clerks to get them to adopt the prudent IT management practices of:
- conducting effective pre-election voting machine tests that verify the machines are counting votes correctly in every race (not just verifying that they count the correct number of ballots); and
- verifying the accuracy of the voting-machine output promptly after every election, to ensure that any Election-Day miscounts are detected and corrected during the county canvass period, before the election results are declared final.
For more information on how Wisconsin's elections can be better protected, follow our Election Integrity Blog and check out these links:
Arrange an Election Integrity Road Show for your community group.
Five things you can do to help to protect Wisconsin elections in only a few hours a year.
A printable illustrated booklet describing how electronic miscounts happen, using three actual cases.
A "Field Guide" to Wisconsin's election officials--who does what at the state, county, and municipal levels.
The Case for Preserving Voter-marked Paper Ballots (Advantages of op scan over touch-screen tabulators)
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- Development Document
- Roster of Facilitators
- Election Integrity Questions for Candidates
- Election Integrity - Members' Contribution Page