11/2/2004 Open Records Update
For more than two years, I have been seeking copies of the records for the November 2, 2004 general election which are held by the City of Milwaukee Election. My reasons are three-fold.
One, I can. Both Wisconsin election statutes (chapter 7) and Wisconsin open records law (Chapter 19) state these record are absolutely accessible to the public. It offends me that citizens are prohibited from overseeing the administration of elections.
Two, I need the records to substantiated my complaint before Wisconsin State Elections Board. I filed a complaint with the Wisconsin State Elections Board claiming that for three consecutive elections (September 14, 2004, November 2, 2004, and February 15, 2005) City election officials routinely and willfully conducted illegal canvasses. I substantiated my claims for some wards for the September 14, 2004 and for some wards for the February 15, 2005 election. I have no copies of records for the November 2, 2004 election to substantiate my claims for this election.
Three, I want 8,000 mark-sense ballots to test the viability of my sort and weigh proposal. It would be nice to have evidence instead of speculation on the viability of this ballot counting proposal. Milwaukee is the last jurisdiction in the country with such a large number of interesting (more than 10 races) paper, mark-sense ballots in the country which have actually been marked by actual voters in an actual election.
After, asking and being denied for more than two years, I filed suit in Wisconsin circuit court to have at least my 1248 requested records released. Sorry, Owen, for now, you are on your own for your request for 1306 records.
The excellent news is that as of yesterday, Monday, July 2, 2004, Robert Dreps and Jennifer Peterson, open records attorneys from the law firm of Godrey and Kahn, have agreed to represent me. The billing rate is very reasonable.
One of the first things Mr. Dreps discovered yesterday was that the records were never confiscated from the offices of the Election Commission. The records were voluntarily surrendered to the task force. This means that two years of "We don't have the records" and two years of "The records were taken from us by the Task Force" are, at best, disingenuous. Since, the surrender of records was voluntary; the Election Commission could have demanded the return of the records from the task force at any time. Instead the election commission chose rebuff open records requests (in violation of WI Stats. 19.31), rather than fulfill those open records requests.
The lesson learned for me is sue early. Don't wait because some sweet-talkin' Federal Prosecutor says he will investigate only to learn later he has no intention of investigating election officials.
Again, sue as soon as the case is ripe. See the next post on why that lesson was twice-learned this week.