- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Leaders at Wisconsin’s elections board say plans to make changes after a critical state audit could be hampered by cuts in Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget.

The Wisconsin State Journal (https://bit.ly/18m4NDO ) reports the Government Accountability Board is among several agencies that would see many of its behind-the-scenes functions consolidated under a pilot program. The state Department of Administration would operate the program, which would affect functions including budgeting, financing, and information technology.

Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the elections board, said their specialized IT needs wouldn’t fit well into the program. The agency maintains a Wisconsin voter registration database, and it tracks lobbyists and campaign funding.

The six nonpartisan judges who make up the board said Wednesday they would send a letter to the state legislature’s Joint Finance Committee to ask for two years to complete IT projects.

Jonathan Becker, administrator of the board’s ethics and accountability division, said the Department of Administration was supposed to make the board’s lobbyist database and website a few years ago. It was incomplete after two years, and the board hired a contractor to finish it, Becker said.

Department of Administration spokesman Cullen Werwie declined to comment on the lobbyist website project. But he said the new pilot program would “make government more efficient, effective and provide a better value service for taxpayers.”

Issues found in the audit of the elections board included its failure to do reviews to identify felons who may have voted unlawfully, and that it doesn’t have a written policy on handling complaints. The agency says it has worked to better communicate with the Department of Corrections to make sure felons don’t vote illegally, among other steps to make fixes.

Wisconsin Republicans want change at the elections board in light of the audit. They’ve also been critical of the board after it approved an investigation into whether Walker’s 2012 campaign coordinated illegally with conservative groups.

Board officials have said the agency has struggled with limited resources and a workload including several recall elections, implementation of photo voter identification and a statewide Supreme Court election recount.

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Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, https://www.madison.com/wsj

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