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Judge tosses AG's voter verification case; 800 missing ballots

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New Richmond, 54017
New Richmond Wisconsin 127 South Knowles Avenue 54017

A judge in Madison will not make Wisconsin officials confirm the identities of almost a quarter-million voters before the November elections.

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Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi threw out Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's lawsuit today (Thursday) against the Government Accountability Board.

She said there's no violation of state or federal laws which are about to occur.

Van Hollen said the board was breaking the federal Help America Vote Act, by not double-checking the identities of over 240,000 Wisconsinites who registered by mail or voter-recruiting groups since 2006.

The board said it only had to double-check identities since last August and it never would have been able to confirm the older registrations before Election Day.

Others feared that if Van Hollen prevailed, thousands of Wisconsinites would be denied the right to vote because of something as simple as a missing birthday, or a misspelled name on existing election records.

Van Hollen said it was not true and those in question would have got provisional ballots to cast at the polls and would prove their identities up to a day later.

One of the board's arguments in rejecting the suit was that the state attorney general had no business enforcing a federal law.

Board attorney Lester Pines called that a power grab, but the attorney general's office said if it didn't enforce election laws, nobody else would.

Missing ballots

Hundreds of absentee ballots mailed to voters in Racine have turned up missing.

City Clerk Janice Johnson-Martin said 11,000 ballots were mailed in four containers on Oct. 9. Three of the containers were returned, but the fourth disappeared and officials didn't know it until they heard from voters asking where their ballots are.

One woman called U.S. Rep Paul Ryan's office, worried that she couldn't vote because someone had stolen her absentee ballot.

Johnson-Martin later assured the woman that she can vote and her vote will be counted.

The clerk's office mailed about 800 replacement ballots.

Anyone who gets two ballots have been told to use only one. Johnson-Martin says there are safeguards in place to prevent double-voting as a result of the mailing error.

The U.S. Post Office says it did nothing wrong. Racine Postmaster Ron Farnsworth said workers checked the city's postal branches and the regional mail processing center in Milwaukee and there's no evidence the post office misplaced anything.

But he's not dead

John and Marge Jacoby have lived in the same house in Madison for 40 years, but when they checked their voter registration status, they learned that John was taken off the voter rolls because he was dead and his wife was needed to give their city clerk's office her birthday -- something that was not required when the couple registered all those years ago.

Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl said Marge Jacoby was indeed registered, but she could not access her voter record online because the birth-date was not in the state's computer.

As for Marge's supposedly dead husband, Witzel-Behl said a technical procedure caused that. When a voter has not submitted a birth date, the computer system puts in a default date and that makes it easier for someone who's listed as dead to be mistaken for a living person with the same name.

However, one call to the clerk's office straightened everything out for the Jacobys.

John says he's worried that others might have problems on Election Day if they don't make sure of their voting status now.

The Government Accountability Board's Web site will tell you if you're in. You'll find it at www.Wisconsin.gov.

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