Wisconsin earns high marks in new election study


Christy Setzer, New Heights Communications, christy@newheightscommunications.com, (202) 724-6380

Mary Boyle, Common Cause, mboyle@commoncause.org, (202) 736-5770

Voting machine preparation “good,” but room for improvement before Nov. 6

WASHINGTON – An effective combination of paper ballots and other sound voter protection measures vaulted Wisconsin near the top of a ranking of states based upon its preparedness to successfully manage any voting machine failures on Election Day, a new, national report finds.

The report, “Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Voting Technology Preparedness,” was released Wednesday by three non-partisan organizations focused on voting – the Verified Voting Foundation, the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic, and Common Cause. While Wisconsin earned a high rating, the report nevertheless urges election officials in every state to make changes in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election.

“We applaud Wisconsin’s efforts in some of these key measurements to prepare for the upcoming election,” said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting. “However, no election system is perfect, and ensuring fair, accurate elections is a national effort. Everyone from election officials to citizens should be involved to make sure this process at the very heart of our democracy is healthy.”

Wisconsin scored high marks in part because it uses paper ballots and has instituted some best practices concerning the return of ballots from military and overseas voters. These are the types of measures that all states should implement to improve the accuracy of our elections.

Many states have neglected to address or prepare for voting machine malfunction, which happen in every election. In 2008, for example, more than 1,800 problems with voting machines were reported nationally.

“If history is any indication, machines this November will fail, and votes will be lost,” said Susannah Goodman of Common Cause. “Backup systems like paper ballots, audits and good ballot reconciliation practices need to be put in place to be sure outcomes are correct.”

Wisconsin received an overall rating of “Good” based on its performance in five areas:

‘ Does the state require paper ballots or records of every vote cast? (When computer failures or human errors cause machine miscounts, election officials can use the original ballots to determine correct totals. Additionally, paper ballots can be used to audit machine counts.)

‘ Does the state have adequate contingency plans at each polling place in the event of machine failure?

‘ Does the state protect military and overseas voters and their ballots from alteration, manipulation and privacy violations by ensuring that marked ballots are not cast online?

‘ Has the state instituted a post-election audit to determine whether the electronically reported results are correct?

‘ Does the state use robust ballot reconciliation and tabulation practices to help ensure that no ballots are lost or added as votes are tallied and aggregated from the local to state level?

In addition to Wisconsin, four other states were ranked near the top of the list – Minnesota, Ohio, Vermont and New Hampshire – while six states were ranked near the bottom – Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina.

Election Day is more than three months away, and that leaves time for Wisconsin to make simple changes in some of the categories ranked by the study.

Click here to view the whole report.

Click here to view the executive summary.

Click here to view a chart of all the states’ overall assessments.