When Wisconsin considered preventing voters from casting regular ballots if the state didn't find a "complete match" of the voter's data in the motor vehicle or Social Security database and the voter didn't have acceptable proof of residence at the polls, we warned them it was a bad idea. As we explained, it's bad policy to make a complete "HAVA match" a precondition to voting a regular ballot, because matching voter data fails from 20-30% of the time.
We were right: the initial results from Wisconsin showed a match failure rate of 22%. That is, nearly 1 in 4 voters weren't successfully "matched" with other government data—not because they weren't eligible to vote, but because of typos, missed middle initials, and other minor problems.
Thankfully, Wisconsin heard the message and rejected the proposed matching rule.
The latest news confirms just how right that decision was. As a test, Wisconsin took the voter registration records of the six retired judges who serve on the Government Accountability Board—the body that oversees elections—and ran them through the "HAVA match" process. The result? Four of the six judges didn't match.
As Nat Robinson, director of the GAB's election division, noted, "This is significant because two-thirds of the GAB, made up of long-time voters and well-respected former judges, could have been forced to vote on provisional ballots."
It's hard to imagine anyone arguing with a straight face that, if the integrity of Wisconsin's elections is to be protected, four of the six judges who oversee those elections can't be trusted to vote a regular ballot. But, in effect, that's the message of those who are saying that un-matched voters should have to vote provisional ballots.
It's a good thing—for the judges themselves and for the voters of Wisconsin—that the GAB didn't listen.