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One-name voters highlight potential problems in voter list

By   /   November 30, 2011  /   2 Comments


By Kirsten Adshead | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — Queerscout is an anomaly.

And, officially, at least, that can be quite the headache.

Queerscout is a Milwaukee resident who legally changed his name to the single-word moniker in the 1990s, for spiritual reasons. 

But having one name has only caused significant problems in the past few years, he said, as security has tightened since 9/11 and government agencies have updated their computer systems with programs that don’t know how to handle people without a first or last name.

“I had a Dickens of a time (with) the Social Security Administration,” said Queerscout, who first was sent a Social Security card with the name “Unk. Queerscout”, with “Unk” standing for “First Name Unknown.”

Then a recent letter from the City of Milwaukee said he might be kicked off the voter registration rolls because, he said, city officials were struggling to verify his registration due to his single name.

That’s an issue he plans to address after he tries to get a statewide ID, so he can be in compliance with the state's new voter ID law — a requirement he finds ridiculous, even if the ID card is free.

“Do we even have a voter fraud problem in Wisconsin?” Queerscout asked. “I don’t think we do.”

Wisconsin Reporter has tried to answer this question by purchasing and analyzing Wisconsin’s voter registration list, which contains about 3.3 million names.

The analysis uncovered records with single-name registrants, missing addresses, unclear voter registration numbers and incomplete data identifying a person’s voting district, among other issues.

Queerscout is one of 48 people in the registration list with a last name, but no first name.

In his case, the single-name record is correct.

But there’s also someone identified only as “Luan” from Cudahy, a “Mitch” in Madison and a “Keys” in Sturgeon Bay.

So would “Mitch” have trouble voting on election day because his or her data is incomplete?

Or could anyone using that name come and vote?

Election officials say they doubt it.

“What we tell poll workers then if there’s something like that then the (municipal or county) clerk could verify that it was legitimate,” by tracing that record back to the original voter registration document, which likely includes a first name, Dane County Clerk Karen Peters said.

“Of course, when it’s really busy the best thing is to just tell people to fill out a new (voter registration) form,” Peters said.

Wisconsin’s same-day voter registration law allows people to register to vote at the polls on election days.

Supporters of the state's new voter ID law, requiring people to present a picture ID before they vote, have said the requirement is aimed at ensuring the security of Wisconsin's electoral system, although critics, such as Queerscout, contend that the true purpose is to disenfranchise voters.
The new law, which also requires that people sign next to their name when they come to vote, is yet another safeguard in this secure system, said Reid Magney, spokesman for the Government Accountability Board, or GAB, which oversees the state's elections.
“The argument that was being made, prior to the voter ID law, was that someone could get the list and see someone, for example, (who) didn’t vote regularly. And so if I knew that John Smith hadn’t voted in two years or something like that … and I had his name and address, I’d just go down to the polling place and say, ‘I’m John Smith, and I live at 123 Main St.,’ and then they’d say, ‘OK. Check your name off. Here’s your ballot,’” Magney said.
Now, voters will have to prove their identity with a photo, although the address on the ID doesn't need to be in the ward where the person is trying to vote, he said.
Magney said there are other safeguards, such as having two copies of the list of local voters at polling places and having a paper trail back to the original voter registration documents, that make it extremely difficult to try to rig an election, he said.
Magney said he is confident in the accuracy and security of the voting system in the state, citing two reasons.

First, he said, cases of voter fraud make the news precisely because they are so rare.

And secondly, he said, an analysis of the registration list shows few problems.

In addition to the 48 one-name registrants, Wisconsin Reporter also found that:

  • Thirteen had incomplete addresses.
  • Thirty-one voters didn’t submit a ZIP code or their ZIP code wasn’t put into the statewide voter registration database.
  • Files for 301 voters were missing basic district information, such as the number identifying the person’s congressional district or state Senate district.
“We’re proud of the quality of our database,” Magney said. “It’s reassuring to see so few (potential incorrect records).”

GAB ensures that the state’s voter registration list complies with the federal Help Americans Vote Act requirements, such as ensuring that felons and other ineligible voters don’t vote, Magney said.

It’s up to municipal and city clerks, though, to ensure that information from voter registration forms is put into the system and transferred correctly, he said.

Village of Caledonia Clerk Karie Torkilsen said she was surprised when told a few registrants in Caledonia did not have a first name listed, although they did have middle names, which could indicate that the first names simply were input into the “middle name” field when the statewide database was compiled.

Torkilsen said poll workers do have some leeway to use common sense in determining whether to allow a person to vote.

“I’ve never had that come up as a problem,” she said.

But if a significant problem were to emerge, Torkilsen said,  the poll workers “would send me little notes or call me.”


  • jeremy

    who the hell lets some idiot change their name to “queer” “scout”…….

  • Fran

    Repeal this voter SUPRESSION bill ASAP!!! It is absolutely unconstitutional. Check out the constitution and Amendments. If you don’t understand it, which many of you Repubs don’t – it’s time to go back to high school civics class. What a shameful law – turning us into a Communist country must be fun!!