A state law protecting voter privacy is the latest car to join the crumpled heap that is the train wreck known as SVRS, bureaucratic shorthand for Statewide Voter Registration System. SVRS is being developed under the state's contract with the global outsourcing firm Accenture LLP to develop a computerized voter registration list.
Elections Board and Accenture officials have taken great pains to justify the eye-popping $14 million price tag on the contract by saying the company is developing computer software tailor-made for registering voters in Wisconsin. The Democracy Campaign reported last October that the Accenture software didn't appear to be as customized as advertised. Accenture's off-the-shelf program contained data fields for things like party affiliation and whether a voter owns property, even though such voter information is not collected under Wisconsin law and is incompatible with voter registration practices in the state. Those data fields have been deactivated.
But now the Democracy Campaign has discovered that the Elections Board is instructing local election officers to ignore the state law spelling out what voter information is confidential. In a July 21 memo, the board says the registration identification number assigned to each voter "is not treated as confidential" and "is a public record and must be provided upon request" by individuals and organizations with an interest in having access to elector information stored in the database.
The problem with the Elections Board's position is that it is against state law. Section 6.36(1)(b) of Wisconsin's statutes says no person "other than an employee of the board, a municipal clerk, a deputy clerk, an executive director of a city board of election commissioners, or a deputy designated by the executive director" may view voter registration identification numbers.
It appears that Accenture did not take into account the specifics of Wisconsin's election laws and failed to tailor the software programming to the state's laws and needs, and it appears the Elections Board failed to supervise Accenture's development of the software in order to make certain the purchased voter registration software complied with all applicable Wisconsin laws.