Richfield goes it alone
Village updating voter records after GAB violates its own deadline
By SARAH MANN Daily News Staff
RICHFIELD — The village will be the only municipality in Wisconsin to update its voter records before voters show up at the polls April 2, according to the state Government Accountability Board.
That’s a problem, Schoemann said, because the deadline for municipalities to complete their voter record maintenance was 90 days after the November election.
“Back in December, the Government Accountability Board said, ‘Don’t worry about it, clerks, we’ll do it (voter record maintenance) for you,’” Schoemann said. “They didn’t say they were going to wait until after the April election.”
Voter: GAB duty since ’07
Voter record maintenance is a process that updates each municipality’s list of registered voters by seeking out those residents who have not voted within the past four years. The GAB, or in this case, Richfield, will mail a card to the person in question to see if the person is still a resident or should be removed from the local voter list.
“The process is intended to keep the voter list as accurate as possible,” Schoemann said. “We think it’s important going into the April election.”
The GAB took over voter record maintenance in 2007, according to the board’s website. Municipal clerks had handled the update in years past, but many were not completing their duties as assigned.
“In 2007, the Legislative Audit Bureau found that many municipalities were not regularly maintaining their voter lists as required by state law,” said Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the GAB, in a news release. “After consulting with clerks, the GAB stepped in and took responsibility for printing and mailing to make sure that voter lists are accurate.”
While trying to streamline the process, the board has actually violated the 90day deadline, most recently in 2009 and 2011.
Accountability Board officials pointed to delays in municipal clerks reporting their voter histories to the state, special elections and avoiding voter confusion as reasons for the missed deadline this year.
“Under the current system, suspension notice postcards now go out a little later, but the job gets done in a way that does not create chaos for voters or disrupt preparation of poll lists,” Kennedy said.
Richfield officials just decided to do it themselves. After a two-week delay, the GAB sent Schoemann and his staff the updated voter lists. As of Thursday, village employees were printing out post cards to mail to inactive voters.
“We started as soon as we got in the office this morning,” Schoemann said. “We had everything primed with our printer.”
Elsewhere in the county, municipalities are taking their cues from the board.