Wisconsin’s old Ethics Board was known for its party-line votes on enforcement of campaign laws. There were those who imagined replacing it with a bureaucracy made up of judges and an acronym (GAB) that implies inconsequential talk would represent improvement. Guess again.
Recent weeks have seen the Government Accountability Board taking positions that suggest it has its priorities on backwards.
In one instance, executive director (and Ethics Board holdover) Kevin Kennedy opined that the Defense Department was just wrong in denying Wisconsin a waiver of a requirement that ballots be delivered to military voters 45 days ahead of an election.
The purpose is to improve the chances for armed forces personnel stationed overseas to get completed ballots returned in time to count. And there’s no doubt that Wisconsin is on a timeline compressed at both ends, with a late primary crowding an early general election date.
But we aren’t setting hot lead type to print ballots any more, and if election officials need to step up their pace of work for a couple of days so people who are encountering hot lead get to vote, we’re sure they’ll have a chance to rest up after November.
On the very same day the GAB was registering its objections to the military ballot deadline, it was being far more solicitous toward voters whose registrations have been called into question.
Early this year, a check of voter registrations against other state records turned up about 70,000 with mismatched data. Attempts to contact them and correct legitimate errors were evidently received but ignored by about 45,000 of the recipients.
Another 18,000 notifications came back to the GAB as undeliverable. Those people could—and should—be removed from the active voter lists if they don’t somehow clear up their data.
But the GAB says the other 45,000 shouldn’t be taken off the lists because mismatched data alone isn’t enough to disqualify a voter.
Given how fall-over-laughing easy it is to register at any Wisconsin polling place on Election Day, the word “disqualify” is very much in the eye of the beholder.
According to WisPolitics, a GAB spokeswoman said three-fourths of the mismatched registrants voted in the last two general elections and are therefore “active voters participating in the electoral process on a fairly regular basis.” This, she evidently regarded as reassuring.
What we’d consider reassuring would be just a smidge of curiosity on the part of our guardians of election law as to how many of these thousands should actually be voting.