Sep. 20, 2005
MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin's statewide voter registration system will not be running by a Jan. 1 federal deadline due to errors in software developed by private contractor Accenture LLP, the elections board said.
"Testing has not been finished because of system errors," Kevin Kennedy, Elections Board executive director, said in a news release Monday. "If we can't test it, we can't pilot it, and if we can't pilot it, we can't send it out to the rest of the state to use."
Kennedy said Accenture plans to deliver a newer, corrected version of the software on Friday and report its results to the state Elections Board on Sept. 28.
Wisconsin has a $13.9 million contract with Accenture to create its statewide voter registration system. The state is also paying Deloitte Consulting $4.1 million to manage the project.
Dane County clerks who had tested the software found errors that prevented them from completing basic tasks such as setting up a poll book, a document that has the names of registered voters on it, said Elections Board spokesman Kyle Richmond.
Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said warning signs about Accenture were there from the start.
Kansas dropped its system contract with Accenture and the company was already running behind on contracts it had with other Wisconsin state agencies, he said.
"It's easy to say, 'We told you so,' but the real issue is what can we do to get something that works and quit dumping taxpayer dollars down the drain with a system that doesn't work?" Pocan said.
Wisconsin, like all other states, are under a federal mandate to develop a statewide voter registration system by the first of the year.
The 2002 Help America Vote Act also requires that polling places have at least one voting machine that is accessible to people with disabilities.
Kennedy said Colorado and Wyoming, which also have contracts with Accenture, are projecting a delay in rolling out their voter registration systems.
Kennedy said he hasn't discussed with federal officials whether missing the deadline would jeopardize the $50.4 million the state has already received under the act.
"We don't know and we never knew," Kennedy said. "We knew the federal deadline was highly impractical for anyone who had to start from scratch. Of all the 50 states we probably have the most complex implementation."
Kennedy would not say whether Accenture would be subject to fines due to the delay.
"There are different penalties for different things. We are not letting it slide," he said.
Information from: The Capital Times, http://www.captimes.com
© 2005 AP Wire and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright 2005 Knight Ridder
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