2021 - 2022 LEGISLATURE
March 16, 2021 - Introduced by Senators Darling, Stroebel, Wimberger,
Felzkowski, Feyen, Marklein, Nass, Petrowski and Wanggaard,
cosponsored by Representatives
Tittl, Gundrum, Brooks, Edming, Jagler,
Knodl, Krug, Macco, Murphy, Neylon, Skowronski, Sortwell, Spiros,
Steffen, VanderMeer, Wichgers and Loudenbeck. Referred to Committee on
Elections, Election Process Reform and Ethics.
1An Act to amend
7.41 (2); and to create
7.41 (4m) and 947.01 (1m) of the 2
statutes; relating to: election observers and providing a penalty.
Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
Current law allows any member of the public to observe the conduct of an
election at a polling place or at a site for voting by absentee ballot in person. An
individual may also observe the canvassing of absentee ballots. Under current law,
an election observer must print his or her name and sign and date a log maintained
by the municipal clerk or chief inspector. In addition, the clerk or chief inspector
must designate an observation area that is not less than three feet from nor more
than eight feet from the table where voters announce their name and address and
not less than three feet from nor more than eight feet from the table where
individuals are registered to vote. The clerk or chief inspector must establish the
observation area at a location where an observer may readily observe all aspects of
the voting process. Finally, the clerk or chief inspector may remove an election
observer who disrupts the voting process, engages in electioneering, or posts
Current law also requires a board of canvassers to publicly conduct all steps of
a recount. During the conduct, the person who petitioned for the recount, the
opposing candidates, and other interested persons are entitled to be present in
person and by counsel to observe the proceedings.
This bill requires the municipal clerk, chief inspector, and board of canvassers
to provide election observers uniform and nondiscriminatory access to all stages of
the election process, including recounts. Under the bill, an election observer must
wear a badge with the name of the observer and the name of the organization, if any,
the observer is representing. The observer may not wear any campaign material
advocating voting for or against a candidate or for or against any position on a ballot
question. An observer who violates this prohibition may be expelled from the
location where the observer is observing election procedures, but an observer who
violates the prohibition more than once is considered to be engaged in disorderly
conduct and guilty of a Class B misdemeanor. In addition, an election observer may
not interfere with a voter nor hinder an election official in the performance of his or
her duties. An observer who violates this prohibition is subject to a forfeiture not to
Finally, the bill expands the observation area required under current law so
that it is not more than three feet from the table where voters announce their name
and address and not more than three feet from the table where individuals are
registered to vote.
Because this bill creates a new crime or revises a penalty for an existing crime,
the Joint Review Committee on Criminal Penalties may be requested to prepare a
The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do
enact as follows:
7.41 (2) of the statutes is amended to read:
The chief inspector or municipal clerk may restrict the location of any 3
individual exercising the right under sub. (1) to certain areas within a polling place, 4
the clerk's office, or alternate site under s. 6.855. The chief inspector or municipal 5
clerk shall clearly designate observation areas for election observers under sub. (1). 6
The observation areas shall be not less more
than 3 feet from nor more than 8 feet
the table at which electors announce their name and address to be issued a voter 8
number at the polling place, office, or alternate site and not
than 3 feet from 9nor more than 8 feet from
the table at which a person may register to vote at the 10
polling place, office, or alternate site. The observation areas shall be so positioned 11
to permit any election observer to readily observe all public aspects of the voting 12
7.41 (4m) of the statutes is created to read:
(a) The municipal clerk, chief inspector, and board of canvassers 2
shall provide election observers uniform and nondiscriminatory access to all stages 3
of the election process, including the certification of election technologies, absentee 4
voting in person, canvassing, elector appeals, vote tabulation, and recounts.
(b) 1. An individual who is observing an election process shall wear a badge 6
with the name of the individual and the name of the organization, if any, the 7
individual is representing.
2. a. An election observer may not wear any campaign material advocating 9
voting for or against a candidate or for or against any position on a ballot question.
b. An election observer who violates this subdivision may be expelled by the 11
municipal clerk, chief inspector, or board of canvassers.
3. An election observer may not interfere with any elector in the preparation 13
or casting of the elector's ballot or hinder or prevent the performance of the duties 14
of any election official. An election observer who violates this subdivision is subject 15
to a forfeiture not to exceed $500.
947.01 (1m) of the statutes is created to read:
An election observer who violates s. 7.41 (4m) (b) 2. a. more than 18
once is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor.