26 Dec Elections Board reaches agreement with Accenture on computerized voter registration
Madison, Wis. – As the February elections approach, the State Elections Board has announced an agreement with Accenture to end the technology services company’s involvement with the problematic Wisconsin Statewide Voter Registration System project.
The agreement, in which Accenture pledged to complete a list of repairs to ensure the system complies with federal law, leaves under state control a system designed to house a computerized statewide list of qualified voters.
“We will have full control over a functioning election administration system,” Kevin Kennedy, legal counsel for the state’s new Government Accountability Board, said in a statement released by the Elections Board.
Under the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, work on the voter list was supposed to be completed by Jan. 1, 2006, but the project has been plagued by operational problems. A billing fight ensued between the Elections Board and Accenture, which earlier this year claimed the state owed it $2 million.
The Elections Board declined to make additional payments, contending that too much work remained to be done. In November, the Wisconsin State Journal reported that the system still could not perform a federally required check to prevent voting by felons and the deceased.
State lawmakers threatened lawsuits, and the subsequent agreement was negotiated by representatives of Accenture, the Wisconsin Department of Justice, and the Elections Board.
In all, $23.4 million, mostly federal dollars, has been spent on Accenture, other consultants, and state workers. The state received $50.4 million in federal dollars to implement the Help America Vote Act, and it entered into a contract with Accenture in 2004 that called for the Illinois-based firm to be paid $13.9 million for software development and maintenance for the registration system.
Under the agreement, the board will recover a “significant percentage” of what it has paid to Accenture, said Robert Kasieta, chairman of the Elections Board.
In addition to completing repairs to the system, Accenture has agreed to provide the software source code and documentation to the state, waive $1.95 million in payments held by the Elections Board, and pay the Elections Board $4 million to resolve potential litigation.
By reaching an accord, the parties avoided litigation that would have consumed tax dollars.
In January, the Elections and Ethics Boards will dissolve and their staffs will merge to support the Government Accountability Board. Kennedy, former executive director of the Elections Board and now its acting director until it folds next month, will direct the new agency.
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