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Reply to Romney Committee UOCAVA 10.3.12

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					                           State of Wisconsin\Government Accountability Board
Post Office Box 7984
212 East Washington Avenue, Third Floor                                                          JUDGE DAVID G. DEININGER
Madison, WI 53707-7984                                                                                                Chair
Voice (608) 266-8005
Fax (608) 267-0500                                                                                         KEVIN J. KENNEDY
E-mail: gab@wisconsin.gov                                                                            Director and General Counsel
http://gab.wi.gov

__________________________________________________________________________________________

        October 3, 2012

        Anthony Principi
        Romney for President, Inc.
        585 Commercial Street
        Boston, MA 02109


        Dear Secretary Principi:

        Thank you for contacting Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board with the Romney for
        President Committee’s concerns about the delivery of absentee ballots to military voters. On
        behalf of the Board Chair, Judge David Deininger, I am writing to assure you that all military
        and overseas voters who had applied for an absentee ballot by the federal deadline received
        their ballot with sufficient time to complete the ballot and return it to their local election
        official in time for it to be counted. The Board shares your commitment to free and open
        elections and protecting the voting rights of members of the U.S. armed forces. Based upon
        the steps we have and are taking, and the Board’s role in the transmission of ballots to
        Wisconsin voters, however, I must respectfully disagree with your assertion that this agency
        has violated the voting rights of military electors.

        The Government Accountability Board has been diligent in working with local election
        officials to ensure that all voters, especially military and overseas voters, have the opportunity
        to vote in Wisconsin elections. We continue to follow up directly with those local election
        officials who failed to timely transmit ballots to determine the facts. At this time it appears
        that 27 of the state's 1,851 municipalities missed the federal deadline for transmitting absentee
        ballots to a total of 37 military and overseas electors, all of the ballots were transmitted in time
        for the voter to receive the ballot, mark their choices on the ballot and return the ballot in time
        to be counted.

        Beginning in January 2012, our office sent 12 separate communications to our local election
        officials explaining the ballot transmission and reporting requirements for military and
        overseas voters. All 72 county clerks prepared and delivered the November election ballots to
        the municipal clerks in time for the ballots to be transmitted by the deadline. Our office
        collected information on the transmission of absentee ballots to military and overseas voters.
        We identified the delivery problems and reported them to the U.S. Department of Justice (U.S.
        DoJ). We also followed up with the municipal clerks to determine that ballots had been
        delivered.

        Federal law requires absentee ballots sent to military and overseas voters be transmitted at least
        45 days before the election if a request has been received by that date. Wisconsin law requires
        local election officials to count absentee ballots from all electors if received by 4 p.m. on the
        Friday following the election, if the ballots are postmarked by Election Day. This statutory
Romney for President Committee
October 3, 2012
Page 2

      deadline is noted in the absentee ballot instructions which accompany each ballot that is
      transmitted to military and overseas voters.

      We are currently gathering information to determine how many of the 37 late-transmitted
      ballots were sent to military voters and how many were sent to overseas voters. In all but five
      of the 37 cases, the ballots were sent out with at least 45-days of transit time, when the late
      return provisions of state law are factored in. Sixteen of those ballots were transmitted to the
      voter electronically and 16 were mailed.

      Of the five ballots that were sent with less than 45 days of transit time, four were transmitted
      electronically. Those voters will have ample time to mark their ballots and return them in time
      to be counted. The one ballot sent out by mail with less than 45 days transit time went to a
      soldier in basic training stationed in the State of Georgia. The municipal clerk did not have
      electronic contact information, a Fax number or email address, for the voter. The voter should
      have sufficient time to mark the ballot and return it in time to be counted.

      There are a number of reasons why a municipal clerk may have been late in mailing ballots.
      Most Wisconsin municipal clerks (62 percent) work part-time. We know in the two
      municipalities in Forest County reprinting the ballots was the cause for the delay. One of the
      candidates, the incumbent county treasurer, died after the ballots were originally printed. In
      two cases there were equipment failures. A computer was not working in one situation and a
      scanner in another. We are collecting information from all 27 municipalities to determine the
      reasons for the late transmittal by the local election official.

      Many people are involved in the process of preparing and transmitting ballots. The Legislature
      and our office have developed a number of redundancies in the absentee voting process to
      address possible breakdowns that may occur. This includes the three-day statutory extension
      for counting absentee ballots, electronic transmission of ballots for military and overseas
      voters, as well as a newly developed online ballot delivery program that went into effect for
      this election. The online ballot delivery program can be accessed at http://MyVote.WI.gov.

      Our office has been working closely with the U.S. DoJ to monitor the delivery of absentee
      ballots to military and overseas voters. They were fully apprised of the situation and requested
      that we follow up on three of the 37 cases to ensure the ballot was transmitted in time for it to
      be marked and returned for counting, which we did confirm.

      Our office has taken steps to ensure the timely transmission of absentee ballots to military and
      overseas voters, and to communicate with both clerks and military voters regarding expediting
      the transmission of ballots. Prior to the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting
      Act (UOCAVA) deadline for transmitting absentee ballots, we informed all military and
      overseas voters of Wisconsin’s new online absentee ballot delivery application for UOCAVA
      voters. That application can be accessed along with a wealth of information for all Wisconsin
      voters at http://MyVote.WI.gov, including information regarding Wisconsin’s statutory
      extension for receipt of all absentee ballots. In addition to the numerous communications to
      municipal clerks regarding upcoming deadlines and procedures to follow, we verified in
      advance that each of Wisconsin’s 1,851 municipal clerks either had the capability to transmit
      ballots electronically or would work with another municipality or their county clerk to do so if
      a UOCAVA voter requested electronic transmission of the ballot.
Romney for President Committee
October 3, 2012
Page 3

      Based upon this additional information, I trust you will agree that the Government
      Accountability Board has been proactive in ensuring that the 37 voters whose ballots were
      transmitted after the federal deadline by local election officials are able to fully participate in
      the November 6, 2012 election. To respond to your specific requests, throughout this process
      we have and will continue to take steps to ensure the transmission of absentee ballots to both
      military and overseas voters. We do not have the authority to extend the statutory deadline for
      receipt of absentee ballots and given the facts we have at this time, we are not inclined to seek
      a court order to do so. Finally, as stated above, the absentee ballot instructions received by
      each voter cite the extended receipt deadline of 4 p.m. on Friday, November 9, 2012. We also
      took the extra step of notifying each military and overseas voter in our statewide registration
      system of the new online ballot delivery system in order to encourage that option for accessing
      the ballot.

      I hope this information helps to address your concerns and request. If you need any additional
      information please contact our staff counsel, Mike Haas. Mr. Haas can be reached at 608-266-
      0136 or Michael.Haas@wi.gov.

      Wisconsin Government Accountability Board




      Kevin J. Kennedy
      Director and General Counsel

      C:    Members, Wisconsin Government Accountability Board

            Thomas E. Perez, Chief
            Civil Rights Division
            U.S. Department of Justice
            950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
            Washington, DC 20530

            J.B. Van Hollen, Attorney General
            Wisconsin Department of Justice
            P.O. Box 7857
            Madison, Wisconsin 53707-7857

				
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