State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
Serving as chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Elections during the recalls provided me an insider's perspective on election administration. There are a number of issues that warrant legislative solutions.
GAB Membership - The Government Accountability Board (GAB) is a six member board of semi-retired judges responsible for administering Wisconsin elections. Upon completion of a Board member’s six-year term, their replacement is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the State Senate.
A problem arises because the new nominee must be selected from a list submitted by the Government Accountability Candidate Committee, a committee made up of more judges. By law, the committee must provide the governor with a minimum of only two choices to fill one vacancy, or three choices to fill two vacancies. The result is not much of a choice at all. This needs to change to ensure that the governor receives a greater number of qualified candidates.
Better Ballot Bag Security - During Election Day, ballots are moved from machines and into secure, tamper-evident containers. Unfortunately, the Racine recount demonstrated that this does not always occur. Many ballot bags were received at the recount opened and without a documented explanation. Other ballot bags were not properly sealed, some with large openings. When confronted, Racine chief inspectors, the managers at each polling place, often did not have an explanation because bags were handled by others, including temporary workers.
The job of securing ballot containers is important enough that it should be done only by the chief inspector and witnessed by a poll worker of the opposite party. If there are problems, we will have clear accountability.
Election Documents - During the Racine recount, neither campaign was allowed to inspect documents related to same-day registration. Certainly, access to this information could provide critical facts related to the integrity of the ballots being counted. State law must make these public records available at the time they are needed most, that time is during recounts.
Give Teeth to the State’s Integrity Laws - State law requires voters sign the poll book. Law also requires absentee electors sign a certificate containing the signature and address of a witness. However election officials still count ballots lacking these security measures.
People make honest mistakes and voters should have an opportunity to fix errors. A ballot that is not fixed and is not cast in accordance with the law should not be counted. Otherwise the law does not serve a purpose.
These are just some of the issues I intend to resolve during the next legislative session. An important part of the process, however, is to hear from constituents. If you have a comment on these issues and other issues, please contact me.