WI Attorney General Battles State Over Voter Registration Checks

As the presidential election nears, and Wisconsin proves itself to once again be a battleground state, J.B. Van Hollen, the state attorney general and co-chair of the Wisconsin McCain campaign, is raising the specter of voting fraud.

Van Hollen filed suit earlier this month, against the state Government Accountability Board (GAB) which oversees elections in Wisconsin, demanding that they verify all of the voter registrations made since January 2006 against a new state database created under the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) — a Herculean task that the board had decided to forgo with just six weeks to go until the election.

The GAB claims to be in full compliance with HAVA, stating that retro-active voter registration checks through the database are not mandated by federal law.

The database compares registration data with drivers license records. It just got up and running in Wisconsin a few weeks ago, but the program seems to still be working out the kinks — one of the reasons the GAB is hesitant to hold the database accountable for validating registrations.

“In its deliberations, the Board was concerned about preliminary data that
showed more than a fifth of voters’ data mismatched due to variations in names,
differing data entry standards, or typographical errors,” a GAB press release responding to Van Hollen’s suit said. “A check conducted of GAB members’ data resulted in four of six Board members’ information mis-matching.”

The result, state Democrats say, would be widespread disenfranchisement and suppressed voter turnout. They claim Van Hollen’s demands for database checking are motivated by his role in the McCain campaign, an allegation Van Hollen has denied.

“There was no discussion with anybody involved in leadership with the Republican Party (or the McCain campaign) about this lawsuit before it was brought,” Van Hollen said last Thursday.

But yesterday, the Wisconsin Republican Party chairman came forward to say he had multiple conversations with Van Hollen’s deputy attorney general, Ray Taffora, specifically discussing the handling of the lawsuit, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The Friday before, another Department of Justice attorney in the lawsuit admitted meeting with Republican Party representatives in the week before the suit was filed.

The Dane County Court will hear motions for the case tomorrow, including a motion to disqualify Van Hollen. The attorney for the GAB argues that because Van Hollen represents the state, and the GAB is a state entity, Van Hollen cannot sue a party he represents. Both the Democratic and Republican parties of Wisconsin have filed motions to intervene in the lawsuit.