League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Public Comments for September 25, 2018 Wisconsin Elections Commission Meeting
The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin believes that voting is a fundamental citizen right that must be guaranteed. We value fairness, transparency, accountability and accessibility in every election to ensure that citizens in our state can participate effectively in their government.
Wisconsin elections are strong, and voters in our state can have confidence that their votes will count. The many safeguards that protect Wisconsin voters include Election Day Registration and the requirement for a Voter Verifiable Paper Trail. The statewide election recount in 2016 had an error rate of only 0.17% for an election where nearly three million votes were cast, according to one analysis. This low change rate, mostly to correct human error on a hectic election day, demonstrates the accountability of our systems along with the high level of competence and care with which our election officials carry out their responsibilities. Because few municipalities have changed their election systems since the 2016 recount, you can now consider how to bolster post-election audits from a position of strength.
That said, we should always be looking for ways to improve our elections. Recent attempts by foreign interests to access Wisconsin’s voter registration database show the need to ensure that our computerized systems are secure, accurate and accountable. A report by the Center for American Progress identified a need for Wisconsin to give more attention to post-election audits, which are one way to ensure accountability. The League supports implementation of a post-election audit system that provides a high level of confidence in the accuracy of the final vote tally. Going forward, we appreciate the opportunity to respond as you draft guidelines that are sufficiently rigorous and practical to implement. Thank you for developing multiple methods for the public to provide comments and feedback for how to spend the remaining federal funds for long-term election security needs.
We are pleased that Wisconsin Elections Commission is exploring how to bolster election accountability as well as voter confidence through post-election audits. We urge you to consider how expansive post-election audits should be in order to provide a useful degree of accountability while limiting unnecessary costs. The Risk Limiting Audits described by The Brennan Center offer an efficient standard by which the number of ballots recounted is linked to the closeness of a race.
Post-election audits should be included among the many needs that both WEC and local governments need to address in order to ensure that Wisconsin elections remain free, fair and accessible to all eligible citizens. We support your inquiry into how to bolster the auditing process, but this must be considered among the mix of needed reforms. We will continue to urge lawmakers to provide WEC and local election officials with sufficient funding for audits, voter education about photo ID and voter registration, and election administration and security.
 Corrected from the original on 9.27.18. Data cited here from Election Law Journal: Rules, Politics, and Policy Vol. 17, No. 2 Learning from Recounts by S Ansolabehere, B Burden, K Mayer and C Stewart III