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COMMENTARY: If I were Wisconsin’s elections czar

By   /   November 7, 2012  /   3 Comments

NEW TECHNOLOGY! Imagine this card containing all the info you’d need to prove you’re the voter you say you are!

By Kevin Binversie | Wisconsin Reporter

Most of the glitches documented in the voting process yesterday had to do with human error — bad training, misunderstandings, long lines.

So allow me a moment to lay down a solution, and idea germinating in my head for over a decade on how Wisconsinites should be casting their ballots.

No idea is perfect. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. I fully expect Republicans to hate part of it and Democrats to hate part of it. My gut even tells me that libertarians will want to burn me at the stake for it.

But allow me to play Voting Czar for a moment — and let my dictates become the law of the land!

For starters, technology needs to be upgraded and modernized in this state and databases need to be scrubbed, cleaned up, and cross-checked thoroughly, constantly, and methodically. That means double-checking the felon list with the utility customers’ lists with the recently deceased list with the voter database. This will be done not months before an election, but every two weeks like clockwork.

Why all that work? An accurate list is an honest list — at least going into Election Day.

Second, a valid identification card of some form from a recognized government agency (driver’s license, Military ID, Veteran’s ID, college ID, etc.) would be necessary to vote. The only requirement on that card would not be photo identification, but instead a corresponding magnetic strip or bar or QR code which could be scanned at a polling place.

Why the scan? It’s time our election system embraces the technology that has allowed banks for decades to identify you from even thousands of miles away — simply by the plastic card in your hand. Similar systems allow Walmart to run one of the most advanced inventory systems in the world and allow law enforcement to pull up your entire driving record in mere moments during a routine traffic stop.

Imagine a system where going to a local polling place would be a lot like paying for your groceries with a debit or credit card. Instead of sliding or scanning your bank card, you would instead scan your approved ID card into a similar machine. There, you would be “approved” as it confirms your identity, checks to see if you’ve voted yet today (or via absentee, entered into the system prior to Election Day) or in the right polling place.

All of this information would be confirmed by a poll worker on a basic tablet or laptop. If everything checks out, you’re handed a paper ballot and off to the curtained box you go. If there’s a technical glitch, you can still double-check yourself with the old-school poll book by showing an approved form of identification.

If all those levels of data mining and technology fail, you’re handed a provisional ballot and must wrangle through the mess associated with it. It’s the 21st Century, and there are certain inconveniences to living off the grid; chances are it is through your choice, not anyone else’s.

And if you’re creeped out by the massive amount of data kept on record about yourself, then you clearly haven’t been paying attention to modern campaign micro-targeting practices or recently been on Facebook.

Is this a perfect or even realistic solution? Lord no: it will have a huge upfront costs to municipalities and relies on government databases actually being accurate. Also, I can already see the line forming of civil libertarians screaming bloody murder at the privacy violations associated with the data harvesting process — not to mention that such a system would almost automatically lead organically to some form of recognized national ID cards.

On the upside, clean elections, greater efficiency in the polling place, maybe even great freedom of movement as people plugged into the state system vote wherever they want — near their homes or work or near the kid’s school.

But you would think that as society gets more technologically advanced, the one thing we could all maybe agree upon is updating and maintaining our voter databases to ensure their accuracy. If we can’t even agree to that on strictly partisan reasons, then there is something seriously wrong with our political system.

Veteran political blogger Kevin Binversie is a Wisconsin native. He served in the George W. Bush administration from 2007-2009, worked at the Heritage Foundation and has worked on numerous state Republican campaigns, most recently as research director for Ron Johnson for Senate. Contact him at kevin.binversie@franklincenterhq.org.


  • Mary Hatch

    This just makes so much sense. Our present system is so open to fraud.

  • I.F. Stone

    Complete and utter nonsense, and it’s totally disingenuous as well. What part of any of this do you expect Republicans to hate?”

  • Tim

    Voter ID is a solution looking for a problem that doesn’t exist.

    “The potential payoff (a vote) is not worth the risk of jail time, thousands of dollars in fines, and—in the case of non-citizens—possibly deportation.”