Except as authorized or required under subd. 2.
, records obtained in connection with a request for an advisory opinion issued under s. 5.05 (6a)
, other than summaries of advisory opinions that do not disclose the identity of individuals requesting such opinions or organizations on whose behalf they are requested, are not subject to the right of inspection and copying under s. 19.35 (1)
. Except as authorized or required under subd. 2.
, the board shall make sufficient alterations in the summaries to prevent disclosing the identities of individuals or organizations involved in the opinions.
The board may make records under subd. 1.
public with the consent of the individual requesting the advisory opinion or the organization or governmental body on whose behalf it is requested.
A person who makes or purports to make public the substance of or any portion of an advisory opinion requested by or on behalf of the person is deemed to have waived the confidentiality of the request for an advisory opinion and of any records obtained or prepared by the board in connection with the request for an advisory opinion.
The board shall make public advisory opinions and records obtained in connection with requests for advisory opinions relating to matters under the jurisdiction of the elections division.
(6a) Advisory opinions.
Any individual, either personally or on behalf of an organization or governmental body, may make a written or electronic request of the board for an advisory opinion regarding the propriety under chs. 5
, subch. III of ch. 13
, or subch. III of ch. 19
of any matter to which the person is or may become a party; and any appointing officer, with the consent of a prospective appointee, may request of the board an advisory opinion regarding the propriety under chs. 5
, subch. III of ch. 13
, or subch. III of ch. 19
of any matter to which the prospective appointee is or may become a party. The board shall review a request for an advisory opinion and may issue a formal written or electronic advisory opinion to the person making the request. Except as authorized or required for opinions specified in sub. (5s) (f) 2.
, the board's deliberations and actions upon such requests shall be in meetings not open to the public. No person acting in good faith upon an advisory opinion issued by the board is subject to criminal or civil prosecution for so acting, if the material facts are as stated in the opinion request. To have legal force and effect, each advisory opinion issued by the board must be supported by specific legal authority under a statute or other law, or by specific case or common law authority. Each advisory opinion shall include a citation to each statute or other law and each case or common law authority upon which the opinion is based, and shall specifically articulate or explain which parts of the cited authority are relevant to the board's conclusion and why they are relevant. The board may authorize its legal counsel to issue an informal written advisory opinion or to transmit an informal advisory opinion electronically on behalf of the board, subject to such limitations as the board deems appropriate. Every informal advisory opinion shall be consistent with applicable formal advisory opinions issued by the board. If the board disagrees with an informal advisory opinion that has been issued on behalf of the board, the board may withdraw the opinion or issue a revised advisory opinion and no person acting after the date of the withdrawal or issuance of the revised advisory opinion is exempted from prosecution under this subsection if the opinion upon which the person's action is based has been withdrawn or revised in relevant degree. Except as authorized or required under sub. (5s) (f) 2.
, no member or employee of the board may make public the identity of the individual requesting a formal or informal advisory opinion or of individuals or organizations mentioned in the opinion. Any person receiving a formal or informal advisory opinion under this subsection who disagrees with the opinion may request a public or private hearing before the board to discuss the opinion. The board shall grant a request for a public or private hearing under this subsection. After hearing the matter, the board may reconsider its opinion and may issue a revised opinion to the person. Promptly upon issuance of each formal advisory opinion that is not open to public access, the board shall publish a summary of the opinion that is consistent with applicable requirements under sub. (5s) (f)
(7) Administrative meetings and conferences.
The board shall conduct regular information and training meetings at various locations in the state for county and municipal clerks and other election officials. Administrative meetings shall be designed to explain the election laws and the forms and rules of the board, to promote uniform procedures and to assure that clerks and other officials are made aware of the integrity and importance of the vote of each citizen. The board may conduct conferences relating to election laws, practice and procedure. The board may charge persons attending the administrative meetings and conferences for its costs incurred in conducting the meetings and conferences at a rate not exceeding the per capita cost incurred by the board.
The board has standing to commence or intervene in any civil action or proceeding for the purpose of enforcing the laws regulating the conduct of elections or election campaigns or ensuring their proper administration. If the board delegates authority to its legal counsel under sub. (1) (e)
to act in its stead, the legal counsel has standing to commence or intervene in such an action or proceeding.
(10) State election administration plan.
With the assistance of the election administration council and approval of the joint committee on finance as provided in this subsection, the board shall adopt and modify as necessary a state plan that meets the requirements of P.L. 107-252
to enable participation by this state in federal financial assistance programs authorized under that law. The board shall adopt the plan and any modifications only after publishing a class 1 notice under ch. 985
or posting on the Internet a statement describing the proposed plan or modification and receiving public comment thereon. After approval of the proposed plan or any modification of the plan by the board, the board shall submit the proposed plan or modification to the joint committee on finance for the approval of the committee. The board may adopt the proposed plan or modification only if the committee approves the proposed plan or modification.
(11) Aids to counties and municipalities.
From the appropriations under s. 20.511 (1) (t)
, the board may provide financial assistance to eligible counties and municipalities for election administration costs in accordance with the plan adopted under sub. (10)
. As a condition precedent to receipt of assistance under this subsection, the board shall enter into an agreement with the county or municipality receiving the assistance specifying the intended use of the assistance and shall ensure compliance with the terms of the agreement. Each agreement shall provide that if the federal government objects to the use of any assistance moneys provided to the county or municipality under the agreement, the county or municipality shall repay the amount of the assistance provided to the board.
(12) Voter education.
The board may conduct or prescribe requirements for educational programs to inform electors about voting procedures, voting rights, and voting technology. The board shall conduct an educational program for the purpose of educating electors who cast paper ballots, ballots that are counted at a central counting location, and absentee ballots of the effect of casting excess votes for a single office.
(13) Toll-free election information and requests. 5.05(13)(a)(a)
The board shall maintain one or more toll-free telephone lines for electors to report possible voting fraud and voting rights violations, to obtain general election information, and to access information concerning their registration status, current polling place locations, and other information relevant to voting in elections.
The board may maintain a free access system under which an elector who votes under s. 6.96
may ascertain current information concerning whether the elector's vote has been counted, and, if the vote will not be counted, the reason that it will not be counted.
The board shall maintain a freely accessible system under which a military elector, as defined in s. 6.34 (1) (a)
, or an overseas elector, as defined in s. 6.34 (1) (b)
, who casts an absentee ballot may ascertain whether the ballot has been received by the appropriate municipal clerk.
The board shall designate and maintain at least one freely accessible means of electronic communication which shall be used for the following purposes:
To permit a military elector, as defined in s. 6.34 (1) (a)
, or an overseas elector, as defined in s. 6.34 (1) (b)
, to request a voter registration application or an application for an absentee ballot at any election at which the elector is qualified to vote in this state.
To permit a military elector or an overseas elector under subd. 1.
to designate whether the elector wishes to receive the applications under subd. 1.
electronically or by mail.
To permit a municipal clerk to transmit to a military elector or an overseas elector under subd. 1.
a registration application or absentee ballot application electronically or by mail, as directed by the elector under subd. 2.
, together with related voting, balloting, and election information.
(14) Information from county and municipal clerks.
The board may request information from county and municipal clerks relating to election administration, performance of electronic voting systems and voting machines, and use of paper ballots in elections.
(15) Registration list.
The board is responsible for the design and maintenance of the official registration list under s. 6.36
. The board shall require all municipalities to use the list in every election and may require any municipality to adhere to procedures established by the board for proper maintenance of the list.
History: 1973 c. 334
; 1975 c. 85
; 1977 c. 29
; 1977 c. 196
; 1977 c. 418
; 1979 c. 32
s. 92 (8)
; 1979 c. 89
; 1983 a. 27
; 1985 a. 303
; 1985 a. 304
; 1989 a. 31
; 1999 a. 182
; 2001 a. 109
; 2003 a. 35
; 2005 a. 177
; 2007 a. 1
; 2007 a. 20
; 2009 a. 28
; 2011 a. 75
; 2013 a. 20
; 2015 a. 2
See also GAB
, Wis. adm. code.
Notice to the district attorney, attorney general, or governor is not a prerequisite to a civil forfeiture under sub. (1) (c). State Elections Board v. Hales, 149 Wis. 2d 306
, 440 N.W.2d 579
(Ct. App. 1989).
A party being investigated by the board is not entitled under sub. (1) (b) to attend and participate in all depositions conducted by the board. Notice to the party being investigated under sub. (1) (b) is limited to the board's exercise of its subpoena power and does not relate in any way to the conduct of depositions the board may wish to take. State ex rel. Block v. Circuit Court for Dane County, 2000 WI App 72
, 234 Wis. 2d 183
, 610 N.W.2d 213
Unless otherwise stated in a specific statute, criminal and civil forfeiture provisions of the election, lobby, and ethics laws can be enforced by a district attorney independently of the board. A referral following an investigation by the board is not required. A district attorney may request prosecutorial or investigative assistance from the attorney general in connection with any duty of the district attorney under those laws. If there has been a referral to the district attorney by the board under sub. (2m) (c) 11., 14., or 15., the district attorney must retain ultimate supervisory authority over the matter referred unless a special prosecutor has been appointed in lieu of the district attorney. OAG 10-08
The board and district attorneys possess joint and co-equal authority to investigate possible violations of the election, lobby, or ethics laws and to prosecute civil forfeiture actions under those laws. Unless otherwise stated in a specific statutory provision, the district attorney possesses the authority to prosecute criminal proceedings under those laws. The board has no statutory authority to prosecute criminal proceedings under those laws except as stated in sub. (2m) (i). OAG 10-08
For the attorney general to prosecute violations of the election, lobby, and ethics laws there must be a specific statute authorizing the attorney general to independently initiate the prosecution of civil and criminal actions involving violations of those laws unless there is a referral to the attorney general by the board under sub. (2m) (c) 16. or unless the attorney general or an assistant attorney general has been appointed as special prosecutor to serve in lieu of the district attorney. OAG 10-08
Government accountability candidate committee. 5.052(1)(1)
The government accountability candidate committee shall meet whenever a vacancy occurs in the membership of the board that requires a nomination to be submitted to the governor under s. 15.60 (2)
No person may be nominated by the committee unless the person receives the unanimous approval of the committee.
Except as provided in sub. (4)
, the committee shall submit at least the following number of nominations:
If a nominee dies or withdraws, or if a nomination of the governor is withdrawn by the governor or rejected by the senate, the committee shall submit an additional nominee to the governor.
History: 2007 a. 1
Duties of the legal counsel.
The board's legal counsel shall:
Whenever a vacancy occurs on the board, call a meeting of the government accountability candidate committee.
Assist the government accountability candidate committee in the performance of its functions.
History: 2007 a. 1
Election assistance commission standards board.
The administrator of the elections division of the board shall, in consultation with the board, appoint an individual to represent this state as a member of the federal election assistance commission standards board. The administrator shall also conduct and supervise a process for the selection of an election official by county and municipal clerks and boards of election commissioners to represent local election officials of this state as a member of the federal election assistance commission standards board. The administrator shall ensure that the members of the federal election assistance commission standards board representing this state shall at no time be members of the same political party. Upon appointment or election of any new member of the federal election assistance commission standards board representing this state, the administrator shall transmit a notice of that member's appointment or election to the officer or agency designated by federal law.
History: 2003 a. 265
; 2007 a. 1
Matching program with secretary of transportation.
The administrator of the elections division of the board shall enter into the agreement with the secretary of transportation specified under s. 85.61 (1)
to match personally identifiable information on the official registration list maintained by the board under s. 6.36 (1)
with personally identifiable information maintained by the department of transportation.
History: 2003 a. 265
; 2007 a. 1
Compliance review; appeal. 5.06(1)
Whenever any elector of a jurisdiction or district served by an election official believes that a decision or action of the official or the failure of the official to act with respect to any matter concerning nominations, qualifications of candidates, voting qualifications, including residence, ward division and numbering, recall, ballot preparation, election administration or conduct of elections is contrary to law, or the official has abused the discretion vested in him or her by law with respect to any such matter, the elector may file a written sworn complaint with the board requesting that the official be required to conform his or her conduct to the law, be restrained from taking any action inconsistent with the law or be required to correct any action or decision inconsistent with the law or any abuse of the discretion vested in him or her by law. The complaint shall set forth such facts as are within the knowledge of the complainant to show probable cause to believe that a violation of law or abuse of discretion has occurred or will occur. The complaint may be accompanied by relevant supporting documents. The board may conduct a hearing on the matter in the manner prescribed for treatment of contested cases under ch. 227
if it believes such action to be appropriate.
No person who is authorized to file a complaint under sub. (1)
, other than the attorney general or a district attorney, may commence an action or proceeding to test the validity of any decision, action or failure to act on the part of any election official with respect to any matter specified in sub. (1)
without first filing a complaint under sub. (1)
, nor prior to disposition of the complaint by the board. A complaint is deemed disposed of if the board fails to transmit an acknowledgment of receipt of the complaint within 5 business days from the date of its receipt or if the board concludes its investigation without a formal decision.
A complaint under this section shall be filed promptly so as not to prejudice the rights of any other party. In no case may a complaint relating to nominations, qualifications of candidates or ballot preparation be filed later than 10 days after the complainant knew or should have known that a violation of law or abuse of discretion occurred or was proposed to occur.
The board may, on its own motion, investigate and determine whether any election official, with respect to any matter concerning nominations, qualifications of candidates, voting qualifications, including residence, ward division and numbering, recall, ballot preparation, election administration or conduct of elections, has failed to comply with the law or abused the discretion vested in him or her by law or proposes to do so.
Upon receipt of a complaint under sub. (1)
, or upon its own motion, the board may order any election official to immediately transfer to its possession any original documents in the custody of the official which the board finds to be necessary and relevant to permit review of compliance with the laws concerning nominations, qualifications of candidates, ward division and numbering, recall or ballot preparation or the proper administration of such laws.
The board may, after such investigation as it deems appropriate, summarily decide the matter before it and, by order, require any election official to conform his or her conduct to the law, restrain an official from taking any action inconsistent with the law or require an official to correct any action or decision inconsistent with the law. The board shall immediately transmit a copy of the order to the official. An order issued under this subsection is effective immediately or at such later time as may be specified in the order.
The board may withdraw, modify or correct an order issued under sub. (6)
within a timely period if it finds such action to be appropriate.
Any election official or complainant who is aggrieved by an order issued under sub. (6)
may appeal the decision of the board to circuit court for the county where the official conducts business or the complainant resides no later than 30 days after issuance of the order. Pendency of an appeal does not stay the effect of an order unless the court so orders.
The court may not conduct a de novo proceeding with respect to any findings of fact or factual matters upon which the board has made a determination, or could have made a determination if the parties had properly presented the disputed matters to the board for its consideration. The court shall summarily hear and determine all contested issues of law and shall affirm, reverse or modify the determination of the board, according due weight to the experience, technical competence and specialized knowledge of the board, pursuant to the applicable standards for review of agency decisions under s. 227.57
This section does not apply to matters arising in connection with a recount under s. 9.01
The plaintiff's failure to comply with the method of review prescribed by this section deprived the circuit court of jurisdiction to hear the plaintiff's original action regarding election irregularities. Kuechmann v. LaCrosse School District, 170 Wis. 2d 218
, 487 N.W.2d 639
(Ct. App. 1992).
Compliance with federal Help America Vote Act. 5.061(1)(1)
Whenever any person believes that a violation of Title III of P.L. 107-252
has occurred, is occurring, or is proposed to occur with respect to an election for national office in this state, that person may file a written, verified complaint with the board.
If the board receives more than one complaint under sub. (1)
relating to the same subject matter, the board may consolidate the complaints for purposes of this section.
A complainant under sub. (1)
or any of the complainants in a consolidated complaint under sub. (2)
may request a hearing and the matter shall then be treated as a contested case under ch. 227
, except that the board shall make a final determination with respect to the merits of the complaint and issue a decision within 89 days of the time that the complaint or the earliest of any complaints was filed, unless the complainant, or each of any complainants whose complaints are consolidated, consents to a specified longer period.
If the board finds the complaint to be without merit, it shall issue a decision dismissing the complaint. If the board finds that the violation alleged in the complaint has occurred, is occurring, or is proposed to occur, the board shall order appropriate relief, except that the board shall not issue any order under this subsection affecting the right of any person to hold an elective office or affecting the canvass of an election on or after the date of that election.
History: 2003 a. 265
Action to compel compliance.
Whenever a violation of the laws regulating the conduct of elections or election campaigns occurs or is proposed to occur, the attorney general or the district attorney of the county where the violation occurs or is proposed to occur may sue for injunctive relief, a writ of mandamus or prohibition, or other such legal or equitable relief as may be appropriate to compel compliance with the law. No bond is required in such actions.
History: 1973 c. 334
; 1983 a. 484
; Stats. 1983 s. 5.07; 1985 a. 304
Petition for enforcement.
In addition to or in lieu of filing a complaint, any elector may file a verified petition alleging such facts as are within his or her knowledge to indicate that an election official has failed or is failing to comply with any law regulating the conduct of elections or election campaigns or proposes to act in a manner inconsistent with such a law, and requesting that an action be commenced for injunctive relief, a writ of mandamus or prohibition or other such legal or equitable relief as may be appropriate to compel compliance with the law. The petition shall be filed with the district attorney for the county having jurisdiction to prosecute the alleged failure to comply under s. 978.05 (1)
. The district attorney may then commence the action or dismiss the petition. If the district attorney declines to act upon the petition or if the district attorney fails to act upon the petition within 15 days of the date of filing, the petitioner may file the same petition with the attorney general, who may then commence the action.
History: 1983 a. 484
; 2007 a. 1
Petition for enforcement of voting rights.
The attorney general shall accept a verified petition from any person alleging failure to comply with section 2 of the federal voting rights act, 42 USC 1973
(a) and (b). The attorney general may commence an action or proceeding in any court of competent jurisdiction on behalf of any elector of this state whose rights under 42 USC 1973
(a) and (b) are violated.
History: 1985 a. 312
Certification of documents.
Whenever the board is authorized or required to make a certification of any document in the custody of the board, and the authority to make the certification is lawfully delegated to the board's legal counsel, the legal counsel may, personally or through an employee authorized by the legal counsel, affix his or her signature by means of a stamp, machine impression, reproduction print or similar process. This section does not apply to certificates of election.
Although the names of the electors do not appear on the ballot and no reference is made to them, a vote for the president and vice president named on the ballot is a vote for the electors of the candidates for whom an elector's vote is cast. Under chs. 5
, all references to the presidential election, the casting of votes and the canvassing of votes for president, or for president and vice president, mean votes for them through their pledged presidential electors.
History: 1973 c. 334
; Stats. 1973 s. 5.10; 1977 c. 26
; 1979 c. 89
Division of municipalities into wards. 5.15(1)(a)1.1.
Every city, village, and town in this state shall by ordinance or resolution of its common council or village or town board, respectively, be divided into wards as provided in this section, except as authorized in sub. (2)
. The boundaries of the wards established under this section, and the number assigned to each ward, are intended to be as permanent as possible, and to this end each ward shall when created contain a population at a convenient point within the applicable population range under sub. (2) (b)
, with due consideration for the known trends of population increase or decrease within that part of the municipality in which the ward is located.
Once established, the boundaries of each ward shall remain unchanged until a further decennial federal census of population indicates that the population of a ward is then above or below the applicable population range, or until the ward boundaries are required to be changed to permit creation of supervisory or aldermanic districts of substantially equal population or to enhance the participation of members of a racial or language minority group in the political process and their ability to elect representatives of their choice, or until otherwise authorized or required under this section.
If the population of a ward has increased above the maximum of its population range or if the population of a ward must be decreased for a reason specified in subd. 2.
, the ward shall be divided into 2 or more wards in compliance with sub. (2) (b)
. If the population of a ward has decreased below the minimum of its population range or if the population of a ward must be increased for a reason specified in subd. 2.
, the ward shall, if possible, be combined with an adjoining ward, or the underpopulated ward and one adjoining ward shall be combined and together subdivided into 2 or more wards in compliance with sub. (2)
Except as authorized in sub. (2) (a)
, within 60 days after the receipt of a tentative supervisory district plan and written statement, if any, from the county board of each county in which a municipality is located, the governing body of the municipality shall adjust its wards according to the schedule shown in sub. (2)
. All territory contained within the municipality, and only the territory so contained, on April 1 of the year of the federal decennial census shall be contained within a ward established under the division ordinance or resolution. Except as authorized in sub. (2)
, each ward shall consist of whole blocks, as utilized by the U.S. bureau of the census in the most recent federal decennial census. To suit the convenience of the voters residing therein each ward shall, as far as practicable, be kept compact and observe the community of interest of existing neighborhoods and other settlements. All territory within a ward shall be contiguous, except for island territory as defined in sub. (2) (f) 3.
Enactment or adoption of a division ordinance or resolution requires the affirmative vote of a majority of the members of the governing body.
The wards established by municipal governing bodies in a division ordinance or resolution enacted or adopted under this section shall govern the adjustment of supervisory districts under s. 59.10 (2) (a)
and (3) (b)
and of aldermanic districts under s. 62.08 (1)
for the purpose of local elections beginning on January 1 of the 2nd year commencing after the year of the census until revised under this section on the basis of the results of the next decennial census of population unless adjusted under sub. (2) (f) 4.
, (6) (a)
, or (7)
, or unless a division is required to effect an act of the legislature redistricting legislative districts under article IV, section 3, of the constitution
or redistricting congressional districts. The populations of wards under each decennial ward division shall be determined on the basis of the federal decennial census and any official corrections to the census issued on or before the date of adoption of the division ordinance or resolution to reflect the correct populations of the municipality and the blocks within the municipality on April 1 of the year of the census.
Every ward shall be wholly contained within a single county.
Except as required by par. (d)
, no city electing its common council at large in which the total population is less than 1,000, and no village or town in which the total population is less than 1,000 is required to be divided into wards under this section, but any such city, village or town may divide itself into wards if the creation of wards facilitates the administration of elections. No village or town located in a county having only one town is required to be divided into wards under this section.
Except for wards created to effect an act of the legislature redistricting legislative districts under article IV, section 3, of the constitution
or redistricting congressional districts and except as authorized under pars. (bm)
, and (f)
and sub. (7)
, wards shall contain the following numbers of inhabitants: