By: Brian Sikma
Tossing state standards and protocol aside, Racine City Clerk Janice Johnson-Martin maintained that it was perfectly acceptable for her to approve voter registration forms that were incomplete and missing data required by the Government Accountability Board. Now, the GAB says that every part of the voter registration form is important, and ignoring part of it is not acceptable.
The forms, nearly two dozen in all, were approved with a signature by Johnson-Martin but did not contain proof of residency details on the lower-right hand side of the form, a space the GAB requires election officials to complete. Responsibility for making sure approved voter registration forms are complete rests with municipal clerks and their offices.
When asked about the irregularities, Johnson-Martin insisted to a Racine Journal Times reporter that her office keeps copies of proof of residence documents stapled to the GAB-131 (state voter registration) forms kept on file in her office. The clerk has not provided evidence of her system to the public. It would appear that her system does not follow state protocol or requirements. In a memo released prior to the August primary, the GAB clearly stated:
“The election official must view the proof of residence and record the type and any unique number on the bottom of the Voter Registration Application.”
When asked about the importance of the lower right-hand portion of the registration application, GAB spokesman Reid Magney commented that every part of the form is designed with the intent that it will be completed as required. “The information contained on form GAB-131 has purpose and election officials should record all appropriate information on the form – including proof-of-residence type and number (if applicable).”
In its training of election workers the GAB spends extra time drilling home the point that proof of residence is an important thing, said Magney. “We specifically stress that election official record proof-of-residence type/number on the bottom of the application,” he said of the training provided to chief election inspectors.
Media Trackers contacted Janice Johnson-Martin and her deputy, Donna Deuster, to get their comment about the GAB’s position that every portion of the form should be completed and no part should be ignored. Both of them refused to answer any questions.
The GAB does not comment on specific situations unless it has reached a formal conclusion in an investigation. It is not clear whether or not Johnson-Martin could be chided by the agency for failure to follow clearly stated protocol, but that she did fail to properly complete voter registration forms that she personally approved of remains a fact. State regulations require that voters provide a proof of residence before they may begin voting in Wisconsin elections, and if a person registers less than 20 days out from an election the proof of residence they used must be clearly stated on the form that is approved by an election official.