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With Spring Election Underway, Officials Focus on Future of Election Security

Darren Hauck/Getty Images
Voters cast their ballot at Cannon Pavilion on November 8, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

It’s election day in Wisconsin. Voters are heading to the polls to cast ballots for State Supreme Court Justice and local races. There’s also a statewide referendum that would amend the state constitution to eliminate the office of state treasurer.

According to Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Neil Albrecht, up to 35 percent of registered voters in the City of Milwaukee are expected to vote today. 

He says the commission had a specific strategy to predict turnout for today’s elections, something they do every election season. “We do project turnout based on voter turnout, for example, in past elections. Elections run in a four-year cycle, so we look back on the April 2014 election turnout. We also look at some of the more recent state Supreme Court races, like in 2015 and 2017."

Albrecht says he has an expectation of what may get the most attention from voters. For example, the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice that’s been getting a lot of attention both locally and nationally; but he says other slots on the ballot may also have something to do with who’s showing up to the polls.

“This is the first time in Milwaukee County that Milwaukee County supervisors have been on a two-year term and are included in this election cycle so I think there’s some eyes on the different county supervisor seats. And then finally, we’ve got a state referendum question," he explain.

Additionally, Albrecht says ensuring that people can vote when they get to the polls is a top priority.

Last month, it was announced that thousands of voter records were mistakenly deactivated due to incorrect voter data submitted to a software system meant to maintain voter list accuracy.

However, Reid Magney says there is a plan in place to make certain that voting can still run smoothly. He’s the public information officer of the Wisconsin Election Commission.

“What we have done is created a supplemental poll list," he says. "So, if you go to vote and your name is not on the main list, the poll workers will check the supplemental list. If you were registered and you did move you have to re-register, but if you did not move your name should be on that supplemental poll list and you just sign it and you’ll get a ballot and you’ll be good to go.”

Magney says people whose names are on the supplemental list likely were already registered and received post cards last November telling them to confirm whether or not they moved.

Election security is also a priority - especially with the fall primary and general elections later in the year.

After reports of attempted Russian hacking in past Wisconsin elections, officials say it’s vital to be thinking ahead of new hacking technology.

The state is eligible to receive nearly $7 million in federal election security funding. Magney says it can be used for a variety of purposes: “The money doesn’t all have to be used just for security. It can be used for other election things. So, whether it’s helping us pay for essentially a system where the people who use the voter registration system need additional passwords that are generated on the fly for them in case somebody’s credentials were stolen, there’s you know possibilities like that.”

Magney says no decision has been made, yet, on how to use the funds but the commission is weighing all its options.

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