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Van Hollen Cites Concerns with Wisconsin's Election Integrity, Saying "the Law Is Not An Option That Can Be Ignored"
MADISON - Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen issued the following statement regarding the lawsuit he filed today seeking to compel the Government Accountability Board to comply with election law:
Today, on behalf of the citizens of Wisconsin, I filed suit in Dane County Circuit Court seeking to compel the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) to bring Wisconsin into compliance with state and federal election law.
In 2002, the United States Congress enacted the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). The Wisconsin's Legislature expressly charged the Government Accountability Board with bringing the state into compliance with HAVA's requirements. Although Wisconsin was required to have its system in place no later than January 1, 2006, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board did not have a functioning system until August of this year.
Had Wisconsin complied with the HAVA deadline, new voters who registered by mail since January 1, 2006 would have been subject to a "HAVA check" to ensure that the information they provided to election officials matched the information in other public databases. The goal of this requirement is to protect the integrity of elections by ensuring that only those who are qualified and properly registered would be permitted to cast ballots.
In the legal action I filed today, I outline my concern that the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board has not fulfilled its legal obligation to bring Wisconsin into compliance with state and federal election laws, including HAVA, because it has refused to run HAVA checks on voter registrations received prior to August 6, 2008. This means that the statewide computerized voter registration list required by HAVA includes thousands, if not tens of thousands, of names whose information has not been verified through the HAVA checks mandated by Congress and required by state law.
Unless action is taken by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, these names will remain on the list during the November 4, 2008 presidential election and there is a significant risk, if not a certainty, that unlawful votes will be cast and counted.
Make no mistake, HAVA disenfranchises no one and protects the right to vote. Law contains numerous safeguards to ensure that every qualified voter may cast a ballot on Election Day. HAVA checks are an important safeguard - one mandated by Congress and state law - to help make sure those lawful votes are not diluted by unlawful votes.
Over the past several weeks, Department leadership has shared my concerns with Government Accountability Board staff. These conversations met with unsatisfactory results.
On August 27, 2008, in anticipation of the Government Accountability Board's scheduled board meeting, I felt it necessary to write the Board outlining my concerns about their inaction. In that letter I stated my concern that Wisconsin may be in violation of HAVA.
In response, Kevin Kennedy, the Government Accountability Board's Director and Legal Counsel, informed me that Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board intended to take no further action on the matter and would not require HAVA checks on voter registrations received between the January 1, 2006 HAVA compliance date and August 6, 2008. The Government Accountability Board confirmed this decision in numerous public statements and in its communications with local election officials. In sum, the Government Accountability Board's actions discriminate between one class of potential voters and another.
Further conversations with Board staff in an effort to avoid today's action did not satisfy my concerns.
I promised that I would work to restore integrity to this office and state government. While I regret having to take this action, it is nevertheless necessary and appropriate in order to compel the Board to bring Wisconsin's voter registration list into compliance with the law and ensure the integrity of the electoral process in Wisconsin.
Voting is the most fundamental of rights. But when unlawful votes are cast and counted, the power of a lawful vote is diminished. Congress and the State Legislature, through HAVA and the state law that requires its implementation, have sought to reduce the likelihood that unlawful votes are cast and counted. The law is not an option that can be ignored. No effort is too great to protect our most fundamental political freedom.
END OF STATEMENT
A copy of the lawsuit is attached to this release.
Attorney General Van Hollen's August 27 letter to the Government Accountability Board is available here.
A copy of the Government Accountability Board's August 28, 2008 response from Board Director and Legal Counsel, Kevin Kennedy in response to the Attorney General's August 27, 2008 letter is available here.