Elections Commission asks for 3 more positions

Elections Commission asks for 3 more positions

The Wisconsin Elections Commission has voted to hire three additional staff after Gov. Scott Walker eliminated five positions with a veto in September.

“I was very pleased with the consensus with Joint Finance that we had the five votes and was quite surprised when the veto came down from the governor,” said Chair Mark Thomsen.

In Gov. Walker’s statement following September’s budget veto, he said he thought the Elections Commission was operating efficiently with fewer staff members.

“Rather than adding five additional permanent FTE positions, I believe that the commission can more cost effectively manage peak workload periods by hiring limited term employees or contractors, as they did during the 2016 presidential election,” he said.

The commission voted unanimously Monday for the authority to seek hiring three additional staff, with two focused on security issues.

The commission is working on updating its security plan after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Russian hackers had targeted the state’s election systems in 2016, but did not infiltrate them.

Elections Commission Administrator Michael Haas said a 28 percent reduction in staff since 2015 has weakened the ability of elections workers to address voter safety and eroded fulfilling all other state and federal law requirements.

“I’m trying to access the impact of fewer staff, as well as balancing a couple of factors: what we believe to be the necessary level of staffing for the agency along with the governor’s recommendation,” Haas said.

Haas said the positions can be paid for with existing federal money and previously approved state funding, but legislative approval for the spots may still be needed.