Republican lawmakers grill GAB head over SVRS - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Republican lawmakers grill GAB head over voter registration system

MADISON (WKOW) -- Republican lawmakers interrogated the Wisconsin's top election official for over two hours on Tuesday.

They say the Government Accountability Board (GAB) violated state law by failing to update the voter rolls in time for the April 2nd spring election.

GAB Executive Director Kevin Kennedy says the law requiring the State Voter Registration System (SVRS) to be updated within 90 days after a fall general election, simply isn't practical.

But Republicans on the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee say if the system isn't updated on time it could lead to voter fraud.

In order to update the SVRS accurately, Kennedy says the GAB must first get updated lists of who voted in last November's general election.

"156 municipalities did not have their data entry in within 60 days after the election, including our two largest municipalities did not have that work done.  We still have 36 that don't have it done," Kennedy told the Committee members.

Kennedy says that's why he elected to have the GAB bypass the 90 day deadline, which was also done in 2011.  He says otherwise, about 10,000 people would have received a notice that their registration would be made inactive, even though they voted last November.

"And so you will have people that are getting prepared to vote in their local elections who are told, you're gonna be inactive," said Kennedy. 

Voters are not supposed to be notified their registration will be listed as inactive unless they have failed to vote for a period of four years.

Republicans on the committee want to know why local clerks can't get their job done in time.

"That expectation's not been met, so why?," asked Rep. Don Pridemore (R-Hartford).  "Is it intentional?  Is it lack of good judgement?  Is it lack of priorities?" 

The GAB took over the job of maintaining the SVRS in 2007, even though state statute lists the municipal clerks as the responsible party.

That prompted an accusatory exchange between Kennedy and Rep. David Craig (R-Big Bend).

"Where did your organization surmise the authority to be able to take this away from the municipalities in the first place?  Did the GAB violate the law by doing that?," asked Rep. Craig.

"I don't believe the GAB violated the law by doing that," replied Kennedy.  "I can understand the criticism that comes with that, but I can also say that the outcome of this has been exactly what was intended which was to ensure that we have a good quality voter list.

Republicans say they don't want the law changed, until they have proof it simply can't be followed.

"If in the course of studying this its found the timeline isn't realistic, then we'll certainly examine that," said Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac).

Last month, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) called for an audit of the GAB over this issue.  While that wasn't discussed Tuesday, it is clear Republican committee members want to have more answers before they make a move to change the law.

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