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Group wants AG ruling on release of voter ID numbers

Did the State Elections Board violate state law when it directed local election officials to release voter identification numbers to third parties when requested is the question a state elections watchdog group wants answered.

The non-partisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign on Monday asked Peg Lautenschlager, the state attorney general, to issue a clarifying opinion on the question.

In a July 21 memo the SEB stated, "With certain exceptions voter registration and voter history information, including the state voter registration system voter ID number, is a public record and must be provided upon request."

"The problem with the elections board's position is that it is against state law," Mike McCabe, WDC executive director wrote in the letter to Lautenschlager.

"We've explained it to state Department of Justice and Department of Administration lawyers," said Kyle Richmond, SEB spokesman. "We are waiting for a reply from the justice lawyers."

He added that a reply from the DOJ lawyers should come in about two weeks.

WDC points out that the July 21 memo directly contradicts a SEB memo from June 23 which stated, "Section 6.36 (1) (b) Wis.Stats. states that no person other than an election official may view the date of birth, voter registration identification number, operator's driver license number, Wisconsin state ID number or the Social Security number of an elector."

The spokesman for the SEB says the reason for the change is that the SEB believes the current law is flawed.

"The law was drafted before the proposals for the software were ever sent out," Richmond said.

McCabe says that's an excuse being used because the software being implemented by the SEB is flawed because if the voter ID numbers would be removed as the law states the system would become inoperable.

Richmond explained that the way the system works is that the software assigns a voter ID number to a voter when they are entered into the system. This allows the system to track the voter where ever they vote in the state.

"The voter ID number is useless outside of the system," Richmond said. "I would challenge Mr. McCabe that if I gave him my voter ID number to see what he could do with it."

Richmond added that the SEB will be asking that the law be corrected in January's legislative session.

"The SEB will ask that the law be corrected so that the internal record number comes off the list of confidential information." Richmond said.

The SEB began implementing the software in February 2005. So far the system has cost the state $15.8 million, according to Richmond. That amount includes money for Accenture, state employees and Deloitte Consulting, Inc.

Brady Bautch is the Internet Publisher for the RiverTown Newspaper Group. He can be contacted at