Are Wisconsin’s electronic poll books connected to the Internet?

No, Wisconsin’s Badger Books epollbook system is not connected to the internet.  The Wisconsin Elections Commission, which created the software for Badger Books, designed the system with cybersecurity as a top priority.

Badger Books are an electronic poll book system available to Wisconsin’s municipal clerks who wish to use it in their jurisdictions.  WEC provides the software to municipalities at no cost, but the municipality must purchase computer hardware used to run the system.  

Badger Books never touch the internet, which is in accordance with the Commission’s directive outlining the creation and implementation of an electronic poll book program.  

In polling places where there is more than one Badger Book station, the devices do connect to each other to update the electronic poll list.  The network they use to communicate is either via an encrypted wireless router or a hardwired ethernet cable through a secure router that is not connected to the Internet.  All guidance and training provided to the municipalities by WEC staff stress the importance of this lack of external connectivity. 

The voter list for each municipality that uses Badger Books is generated and downloaded by the municipal clerk (or their staff) prior to an election from Wisconsin’s statewide voter database. This poll book detail file is loaded onto an encrypted USB device, which is then inserted into the Badger Book at the polling place to load the details necessary to administer the election. In other words, it is securely transferred by physical means to the device only when needed, and it never reaches the internet or is part of any virtual transfer process. Following the election, the data is taken from the Badger Book, loaded onto a USB device, and uploaded back into the statewide voter database. This data includes voter participation, Election Day Registration information, etc. These are the only two steps during which the internet is used at all and, as they are happening on the clerk office’s computer and accessible only to authorized users of the statewide voter system, there should be no internet-related agita geared toward the Badger Book devices themselves. The data is only being uploaded from/to that device via the security of the clerk’s system account.

WEC is currently seeking proposals from computer hardware vendors to provide devices and hardware support that municipal clerks can purchase to run Badger Books.  The security protocols, training, and guidance offered to the clerks will remain intact despite the potential for a change in equipment or suppliers.  Again, the RFP is only meant to possibly update the hardware being used, provide a vehicle for purchasing hardware and hardware support, and to encourage municipal use of Badger Books.  It will not fundamentally alter anything about the Badger Books solution or processes.