GAB votes to dislodge staff driven e-pollbook project

In a meeting in Madison yesterday, the appointed retired judges voted 3-2 to stop the inquiry into a project that would change the printed books currently used at Wisconsin polling locations and start with a digital format.

Read the staff final report to the board starting on page 7.

I didn’t like the idea, and I told them so.

My letter is below.

Dear Members of the Government Accountability Board,

I have been somewhat amused and a whole lot aggravated by following the staff’s decision to advocate for electronic poll books. “Advocate” is a carefully chosen word, because even before I read their recommendation to the board, I knew that the board did not request this research be done. Nor can I find any history of municipalities asking for the this change. What I find is from the July 24th, 2013 memo from Michael Haas is that vendors contacted staff. That leads me to conclude that the current chain of command for the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board decision making is:

Venders (are greater than) staff (who are greater than) the appointed board (who then answer to) the elected representatives of Wisconsin (who are tempered by) the voters in Wisconsin.

My gut says that is probably not what this board has in mind.

I am a well-known curmudgeon when it comes to staff-led changes in government. When I served on the City of Brookfield Common Council, any change advocated by staff that involved a budget expenditure meant that I wanted to see a copy of staff’s calendar for the last few months. There is no such thing as a free lunch to Wisconsin taxpayers.

The report presented to the board shows that staff took the initiative to create work for themselves and study this issue. They found, no doubt to their own dismay, that in a quick survey of election officials less than 8% thought that e-pollbooks would be a good idea. Yet the inquiry continued.

In the long report to the board, staff did not estimate the costs communities would incur for buying the equipment to facilitate this new e-pollbook goal. Further into the materials the description includes not just tablets or laptops that would be required, but also handheld scanning devices to read the back of licenses. Yes, licenses, even though Wisconsin does not yet require identification for voting. The report did affirm 10 municipalities in Wisconsin had used computers in select polling places. TEN!

The staff report also failed to mention that communities might lose a generation of poll workers who are uncomfortable with the new technology.

Finally, human error is the largest reason electronic systems fail. Transferring to e-pollbooks will not eliminate human error, it will only create the opportunity for different human errors. Sadly, there is also increased opportunity for nefarious electronic intervention of the voting rolls.

This change does not make sense. Common sense is so rare in government that I propose you shock staff and not only tell them to forget it, but to be very careful about using the taxpayer’s time on any future ideas vendors propose.

With respect,

Cindy Kilkenny
Brookfield, WI


  1. Ald. Scott Berg says:

    Cindy –

    I read your comments with great interest. You make the assertion

    “When I served on the City of Brookfield Common Council, any change advocated by staff that involved a budget expenditure meant that I wanted to see a copy of staff’s calendar for the last few months.”

    Apparently you believed, while serving as alderman, that the city staff was either incapable of locating creative new technologies or solutions to serve the residents or that the staff often recommended things that were not seen as needed until a salesman persuaded them. Either choice would present all sorts of problems and I would like to investigate them myself.

    Please cite a couple of specific cases where you investigated a staff expenditure recommendation and which staff member’s appointment book you personally audited to verify nothing untoward was happening.

    The People thank you for your diligence.

    Scott A. Berg
    Alderman, 5th District

  2. I knew you couldn’t resist, Scott. I just knew it.

    I said I “wanted” to see the calendar. Not that I demanded any review, but didn’t you vote for that clunker VOIP phone system before I got there?

    Thank you so much for your dependable predictability. It’s nice to know you’re still Scott Berg.

  3. Ald. Scott Berg says:

    So, let me get this straight. After you were appointed alderman, you had a suspicion of unethical or at least lazy staff activity, you had a plan of action to reveal it, you failed to do so and now you are BRAGGING about it to your gullible followers?

    And we’re supposed to fall for this smoke screen that it was all bait for me and not, for example, relying on your fantasy memory of how effective you once were?

    Sounds like another example of destroying your own journalistic integrity. You know, like admitting your guilt in the Niebler case and blaming it on your (husband’s) insurance carrier.

    You’re right about one thing – thank you for your “dependable predictability”.

  4. No, Scott, in my letter to the GAB board I said I wanted to see the calendars of staff who brought expensive initiatives to our council. Not that I did, not that I demanded it, that I wanted to see them. I was curious. I do apologize if I failed to discuss my curiosity with you at the time. I notice you did not confirm nor deny your vote for the expensive VOIP phone system.

    For the record I was told by my attorney that settling through the insurance carrier was not an admission of guilt. If I have erred in that, I get to blame my attorney. 🙂 It was very important to me that Niebler not be vindicated, but it was also important to spend the last couple of months in that time period with my father before he died. And surely you’ve noticed that all I said about Niebler and his housing development next to a superfund landfill site remains published on this blog.

    I’m curious as to how you believe your intervention here is going to paint you in any better light in our community. These little breaks in discretion that cause you to post to this blog have never really ended well for you in the past. Why now? Of course, I have my suspicion, but you might as well get to defend yourself.

  5. Michael Stanley says:


    For a *public servant* you certainly come off as a juvenile, petulant asshole.

    Your snide and sophomoric comments have been screen capped and will be used against you in your next election bid.

    I am tired of entitled jackasses like you who try to bully private citizens. Sic semper tyrannis, dirtbag.