Groups are piling on the decision by Wisconsin Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen, to file a lawsuit against the state agency which oversees elections. Among them, One Wisconsin Now, which is aligned with Democrats. Scott Ross is OWN's executive director, and he notes that Van Hollen is co-chair of the John McCain campaign in Wisconsin. Filing the lawsuit against the Government Accountability Board, says Ross, "smacks of partisanship, it smacks of utilizing taxpayer resources to achieve political and partisan ends."
But Van Hollen says his decision to file the suit against the GAB in Dane County Circuit Court is not partisan. He argues that GAB must cross check voter registrations dating back to January 2006, with information held by the Department of Transportation. "It has nothing to do with politics," says Van Hollen. "It has everything to do with the law, and with government integrity." Van Hollen says the suit seeks to insure that the GAB comply with the federal Help America Vote Act, or HAVA. GAB director Kevin Kennedy says the board is already complying, Van Hollen says they're not, and it will be up to a judge to decide which interpretation is the correct one. "We are saying that the law dictates that they do HAVA checks," says Van Hollen. "I agree. They do have discretion in what to do with the results of the HAVA checks, but they don't have discretion as to whether to conduct them or not."
In a statement from the Government Accountability Board, Kennedy says: "The Board is committed to properly protecting the electoral process from potential fraud. At the same time, the Board is equally committed to protecting the right of every eligible person to vote in Wisconsin, and that every valid vote must be counted. The Board balanced these two fundamental concerns and concluded that it is in the best interest of the citizens of this state to continue its cross-checking efforts until the entire voter database is as accurate as possible. The Board believes it would be counterproductive to rush this effort and to create a significant risk, at best, of unnecessary hardship and confusion at the polls, and at worst, the disenfranchisement of Wisconsin citizens with a clear and legitimate right to vote."
"I simply believe that's not true," says Van Hollen, when asked about the potential risks cited by Kennedy. The GAB, he says, is "required to provide the resources necessary to enact HAVA, and to have municipal clerks enact HAVA." Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi has scheduled a September 19 hearing in the case. "It's certainly going to be up to the judge, how expeditious our hearings are, and what the decision is going to be," says Van Hollen. "But I truly believe that we're arguing apples, and Kevin Kennedy is responding oranges."