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Wisconsin Receives High Marks for Election Administration

December 4, 2007

OSU Study Cites ‘Nonpartisanship and Professionalism’

Madison, WI – A study of election administration in five Midwestern states released today gives Wisconsin a strong endorsement for the way the state runs its elections.

Wisconsin’s Election Day voter registration system is a great success and the state has a transparent election process, said Ohio State University Law Professor Daniel Tokaji.

“What stands out in Wisconsin is the culture of nonpartisanship and professionalism among those running elections,” Tokaji said in a news release. “States with strong, nonpartisan oversight had significantly fewer problems.”

Kevin Kennedy, acting executive director of the State Elections Board and legal counsel to the new Government Accountability Board, agreed.
“We have local election officials who work hard, voters who participate and a system that is free from bias,” Kennedy said. “Our job is to make sure we continue to improve.”

“Now we have a new non-partisan Government Accountability Board to address any further reforms, and a time-tested system of voter registration at the polling place that other states are beginning to adopt,” Kennedy added.

The study was conducted by OSU’s Moritz College of Law and funded by the Joyce Foundation. It recommends general improvements across the nation, including enhancing voter registration options, allowing citizens to vote early, improving poll worker programs, clarifying standards for provisional voting, and changing processes for resolving post-election disputes.

The OSU study makes three major recommendations for Wisconsin:

• Create a strong Elections Division under the new Government Accountability Board (GAB)
• Fix continuing problems with the Statewide Voter Registration Database (SVRS)
• Protect the state’s recount process from partisanship.

“We are already in the process of adopting two of those,” Kennedy said. “One way or another, the SVRS will be fixed and able to cross-check voter eligibility with felon and death records.

“I have made it clear to the Legislature and the new Board that the new Elections Division must have adequate resources to carry out growing responsibilities of state and federal law,” he said. “We must support local election officials in their work.”

The third recommendation – to change the way post-election recounts may be carried out in a fair and timely manner – was not completely examined by the OSU researchers, Kennedy said.

“Wisconsin does provide for a consolidated and expedited judicial review of election recounts,” he said. “However, I will ask the GAB to review the issue to decide if we need further tools to ensure a statewide recount could proceed fairly and quickly.”