Well-run elections are the foundation of our right to self-government and the most important job for any county clerk. Dane County is perfectly situated to become a shining model of election-administration excellence. We have unparalleled commitment to democracy and good government. Our municipal clerks admirably fulfill their responsibilities in voter registration and operating polling places. Our poll workers reliably check that our voting machines count the ballots correctly on Election Day.
But the current county clerk declares election results final before checking whether our votes were accurately counted. That is like a bank checking that its ATMs counted the right number of deposits (ballots) without verifying that the dollars (votes) were credited to the right accounts (candidates). Because this practice could allow computer error or fraud to go undetected, it is contrary to both current national recommendations and common sense.
As your county clerk, I will work collaboratively with the community to bring 21st-century election management to Dane County.
There’s no need to accept the risk of miscounts. In 2014, President Obama’s Commission on Election Administration recommended an elections-verification procedure that can assess accuracy without a full recount. In addition, our voting machines are among the most auditable on the market, preserving a digital image of each ballot. These images can be used for speedy manual vote-counting (100 ballots every 4 minutes) without opening any ballot bags and with complete transparency — every person present can participate.
Even with these opportunities, and even after two proven voting-machine miscounts in 2014, my opponent wrote in July 2015 that he would be interested in verifying results only after an election had been proven to be deliberately rigged. Earlier this year, he adopted a process of checking only two machines’ output after he certifies election results — a process that is used nowhere else. It is not recommended by any expert, cannot detect errors while there is still time to fix them, and is too limited to confirm the results.
My opponent did well to respond quickly to judicial approval of marriage equality. However, as a close observer of his election-related practices for the past four years, I have seen chronically poor collaboration with citizens’ groups in election-related matters, contrary to our community’s rich culture of civic involvement. For example, on the critical issue of voter ID, my opponent’s voter-education video taught voters that getting photo ID is an unpleasant, time-consuming task — contradicting the positive message of the citizens’ Voter ID Coalition and their hard work counteracting voter suppression. In another instance, his short-lived Election Day observation effort showed no signs of collaboration with the League of Women Voters’ respected observation program. In another, he responded to none of the multiple invitations extended by our Wisconsin Election Integrity group to observe demonstrations of nationally recommended audit methods.
As county clerk, I will reach out to collaborate with citizens’ groups and will welcome their participation in preserving and strengthening excellence in our elections.
Elections administration should be nonpartisan, which is why I am running as an independent, without the support of a political party. We have an urgent need to push back the partisanship that has entered every nook and cranny of our civic life, and elections administration is the best place to start.
My goal in seeking this office is higher-quality elections, not higher office. To the job of county clerk, I bring a master’s degree in public administration and 30 years’ experience in records management with the state Supreme Court; supervising management audits with the Legislative Audit Bureau; and management of statewide quality assurance programs with the Department of Health Services.
Together, we can fulfill Dane County’s potential to be a shining national model of protecting our democracy and right to self-government. Together, we can fully realize our community’s commitment to open government and make sure that nothing interferes with our ability to express the true will of the people through the ballot box.
Karen McKim is the independent candidate for Dane County clerk.
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