**Please note. Below you will find information from Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker regarding the issue of ballot printing in the City of Milwaukee. There is a great deal of information included so that you have a complete understanding of exactly what transpired and how it was resolved. Please, take a moment to read through the Executive's note, and share with your family and friends.**
Again this past week, we saw just how important Wisconsin is going to be in the Presidential election this year. Special interest groups from all over the country are pouring money, volunteers and staff into our state - and our community. Simply put, we are all going to have to work extra hard to insure that the election is run the way we expect in Wisconsin - and not the way they run elections in other states.
The Milwaukee County Election Commission informed the City of Milwaukee Election Commission more than a week ago that the city would get 679,500 ballots for the November election - instead of the 938,300 that was requested by the city. This number reflects a larger number than was provided to the city in 2000 - both on a city-wide and ward-by-ward basis. In fact, the total number of ballots provided by the county to the city is more than twice the number of votes cast in the 2000 Presidential election.
Still, the city wanted the larger number. Last Friday, the Mayor's Office staff contacted my office and asked for help. We looked into the matter and agreed with the county election commission staff. While I don't approve or deny the number of ballots, I thought it was important to defend the decision of the commission and raise concerns about the city election commission's recommendation.
During a meeting I hosted on the issue this past Thursday, the head of the State Election Board explained that anyone who objected to the decision of the county election commission could appeal the decision to the State Election Board. That board meets on Wednesday of next week. Since the meeting Thursday, staff from the State Election Board made it clear that the board would approve the appeal for more ballots if sent to them by the Wednesday meeting.
My concern has always been to ensure that we could account for all of the ballots and it was not to keep any individual or group of people from voting, I looked at what was likely to happen with the State Election Board as an incentive to guarantee greater accountability for each and every ballot.
With that in mind, we approached the City of Milwaukee with a solution. They could get the ballots that they requested for each of their 314 wards if we, in turn, could get a guarantee that all of the unused ballots would be returned to the county election commission. This is important since the official ballots that are used by voters are recorded in the voting machines, but the unused ballots are not kept - until today. Now, for example, we can see that if a ward is given 3,000 ballots by the county and 1,500 votes are cast (or deemed unusable), the county must receive 1,500 unused ballots after the election.
In other words, we have a plan that allows every vote to count while ensuring that every ballot is accounted for by the end of the election.
Some might question whether I changed my mind on this matter. I would remind them that the original amount approved by the county election commission (before I got involved) was 679,500. That number is twice the number of votes cast in the 2000 election and more than 200,000 more ballots than legal voters in the city today. In other words, there was still room for problems there too. Prior to our agreement, there was no way to account for all of the unused ballots. Now, our agreement does not back down from our original concerns, it acts on them and makes the oversight of the ballots stronger.
One other thing is important to consider when thinking about this subject. A story in The Rocky Mountain News (http://rockymountainnews.com/drmn/election/article/0,1299,DRMN_36_3256347,00.html) shows a disturbing trend in key swing states across the country. It highlights a page from the Democratic National Committee "Colorado Election Day Manual: A detailed guide to voting in Colorado" as listing the following excerpts:
• Chapter 2 says: "If no signs of intimidation techniques have emerged yet, launch a pre-emptive strike."
• Operatives are directed to issue a news release "reviewing Republican tactics used in your area or state."
• They should also quote "party/minority/ civil rights leadership as denouncing tactics that discourage people from voting."
While this was clearly not our objective in questioning the abnormally large number of ballots requested by the City of Milwaukee, we were also concerned that the hype over the questions might actually be part of this national strategy to claim "intimidation" - even when the facts show otherwise.
Our agreement relieves the hype of that type of false campaign while still insuring that all of the ballots are accounted for after the election.
Thank you to all of you for your support during the past week. Now, let's get on with fair elections and then move on pushing the Milwaukee County Board to pass our 2005 budget with a cut in the property tax levy!