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Wisconsin AB 627 Information PDF  | Print |  Email
By Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA   
November 04, 2005
Download Text of AB 627
Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters
Common Cause Wisconsin Press Release
Gary Sturino: Today We Have Two Choices: Fix the System, or Don't Bother to Vote
Capitol Times Article

On November 10, the Wisconsin State House passed AB 627 by a vote of 91-4, sending it to the State Senate. AB 627, was introduced by Representatives Mark Pocan (D-Madison) and Steve Freese (R-Dodgeville), along with State Senator Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee) on August 24th. A Senate companion bill, SB 296, was introduced the same day by Senator Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee). The bill supports the position of Wisconsin’s multi-partisan Board of Elections.

The bill was a require electronic voting machines to generates “a complete paper ballot showing all votes cast by each elector at the time that it is cast that is visually verifiable.” The voter must be able to verify the ballot before leaving the machine and it must be suitable for a manual count or recount. A similar bill passed the Assembly unanimously last session but was stalled in the Senate. This time there is

Significantly the bill also would require that “the coding for the software that is used to operate the system on Election Day and to tally the votes cast is publicly accessible and may be used to independently verify the accuracy and reliability of the operating and tallying procedures to be employed at any election.”

“One thing that Democrats and Republicans can agree on is that as we enter a new era in voting equipment we must continue to have faith in our election process, and this bill does just that. Requiring a paper ballot trail is a simple check to make sure the new technology works as it should,” said Freese. “Furthermore, when the State Elections Board meets on Wednesday, I hope they pay attention to the direction we would like to go when selecting vendors and electronic voting equipment in Wisconsin.”

The legislators supporting this bill recognize the urgency of meeting the January 1, 2006 deadlines for federal funding through the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). “Since this is one-time federal dollars, it is very important that the Elections Board does the right thing and directs that the new equipment have paper ballots. While our bill would require this, there is a chance that the Board could spend millions and millions on equipment that the legislature would ban if the bill passes. We have heard multiple times from our constituents about the need for a paper trail on these new machines and it would be unfortunate if the Board ignores their requests,” said Pocan.

After passage of AB 627 in the House, Pocan commented "Wisconsin cannot go down the path of states like Florida and Ohio in having elections that the public simply doesn't trust, by requiring a paper record on every electronic voting machine, we will ensure that not only does your vote matter in Wisconsin, but it also counts."

After the November 2004 elections, there were numerous reports of problems with the new paperless touch voting screens. Problems included machines subtracting or adding votes, freezing up, shutting down and skipping past races. “Without a paper ballot, how comfortable can a person feel that their vote will be counted? Not only is a paper ballot an ‘audit’ of the new technology, but it also gives comfort that a voter actually witnesses their vote being counted,” Plale said.

According to the legislative summary of the bill, currently in Wisconsin every municipality with a population of 7,500 or more must use voting machines or an electronic voting system at all primaries and other elections held in the municipality.  Either mechanical or electronic voting machines may be used.  No electronic voting system, including an electronic voting machine, may be used unless the system meets statutory standards and is approved by the State Elections Board for use at elections held in this state. The system must enable an elector to privately verify the votes selected by the elector before casting his or her ballot.  All electronic voting systems must be tested publicly before each election to determine if they are functioning properly.

If voting machines are used, ballots need not be printed and distributed to electors, but if electronic voting machines are used, the machines must maintain a cumulative tally of votes cast that is retrievable in the event of a power outage, evacuation, or malfunction so that the record of the votes cast prior to the time that the problem occurs is preserved, and the machines must produce a permanent paper of record of the vote cast by each elector at the time that it is cast that enables a manual count or recount of the elector’s vote.

Currently, there is no requirement pertaining to accessibility or independent verification of software that is used to operate a system or to record and tally the votes cast. This bill provides that if a municipality uses an electronic voting system that consists of a voting machine, the machine must generate a complete paper ballot showing all votes cast by each voter that is visually verifiable by the voter before the voter leaves the machine and that enables a manual count or recount of each vote cast by the voter.

The bill also provides that the coding for the software that is used to operate the system on election day and to tally the votes cast must be publicly accessible and must be able to be used to independently verify the accuracy and reliability of the operating and tallying procedures to be employed at an election.  In addition, the bill provides that each municipal clerk or board of election commissioners of a municipality that uses an electronic voting system for voting at an election shall provide to any person, upon request, at municipal expense, the coding for the software that the municipality uses to operate the system and to record and tally the votes cast.
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