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“No Match” Dropped After 4 of 6 Judges Fail

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…

  • Adam Skaggs
September 8, 2008

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.