Elections Commission advances rule on election observers

by Henry Redman, Wisconsin Examiner
March 20, 2024

 On Wednesday, a proposed rule on the conduct of election observers in polling places moved one step closer to taking effect. 

The six-member Wisconsin Elections Commission voted to finalize the rule’s economic impact analysis, set a public hearing on the rule and forward it to the Department of Administration, Gov. Tony Evers and the Legislature. 

Under the rule, election observers would only be allowed in certain designated areas between three and eight feet from certain aspects of the voting process — where voters’ addresses are announced when arriving to the poll, where new voters are being registered and where ballots with defects that can’t be read by voting machines are being re-made by poll workers. 

The rule would also guide the process by which election workers and law enforcement officers can remove an observer from a polling place for unruly or disruptive behavior. It also includes provisions to require that observers be allowed to use available chairs and restrooms and for how the news media is allowed to operate inside polling places — because members of the media are allowed to take videos and photos inside polling places while observers are not, the rules are different. 

During a previous comment period on the rule, the commission only received input from Racine City Clerk Tara McMenamin, who opposed the rule on the grounds that schools used as polling places don’t have public restrooms and that the cost of the rule could be too high for municipalities. The commission included a note in the draft that it considered McMenamin’s concerns but that its opinion on the analysis hadn’t changed.

Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

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