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:
In any city in which the population is at least 150,000, each ward shall contain not less than 1,000 nor more than 4,000 inhabitants.
In any city in which the population is at least 39,000 but less than 150,000, each ward shall contain not less than 800 nor more than 3,200 inhabitants.
In any city, village or town in which the population is at least 10,000 but less than 39,000, each ward shall contain not less than 600 nor more than 2,100 inhabitants.
In any city, village or town in which the population is less than 10,000, each ward shall contain not less than 300 nor more than 1,000 inhabitants.
Every city electing the members of its common council from aldermanic districts shall assemble the blocks wholly or partially contained within the city into wards that will enable the creation of aldermanic districts that are substantially equal in population. If a block is partly contained within the city, the city shall divide the block to form a ward containing the portion of the block that lies within the city.
If the population of a block exceeds the maximum population for a ward otherwise specified in this subsection, such block shall be constituted a ward by itself, except that if the population of a block substantially exceeds the population of proposed aldermanic districts in a city so that, if the block were to constitute an aldermanic district, the populations of the aldermanic districts in the city would not be substantially equal, the city shall divide the block to permit assembly into wards that will enable creation of aldermanic districts that are substantially equal in population.
Any division of blocks under this section shall be based on the best evidence available. In this paragraph, “best evidence" includes, but is not limited to, the population of the block and other information received from the U.S. bureau of the census and such data as number of housing units, utility connections and vehicle registrations or a special census conducted locally. For each ward so established, the population estimate shall be correlated with the results of the most recent federal decennial census, so that the total population reported for all wards in the municipality agrees with the census results.
Every municipality shall make a good faith effort to accommodate the tentative plan submitted by the county or counties in which it is located under s. 59.10 (2) (a)
or (3) (b) 1.
, and shall divide itself into wards in such a manner that will permit the creation of county supervisory districts in accordance with the population requirements for the plan specified in s. 59.10 (2) (a)
or (3) (b) 1.
If territory is detached from a city, village or town after April 1 of the year of the federal decennial census, and the remaining portion of the ward to which it was attached falls below the prescribed minimum population for the applicable range, the remaining portion of the population may be constituted a ward by itself.
Any city, village or town may establish a ward below the prescribed minimum population for the applicable range whenever the proposed ward is established under par. (a)
or whenever the proposed ward contains solely:
That part of a city or village situated in a county other than the county in which the major part of the municipality is located.
That part of a city, village or town belonging to a school district other than the school district to which the major part of the municipality belongs.
Island territory containing a resident population. In this subdivision, “island territory" means territory surrounded by water, or noncontiguous territory which is separated by the territory of another municipality or by water, or both, from the major part of the municipality to which it belongs.
New territory which becomes a part of a city, village or town after April 1 of the year of the federal decennial census.
Territory that lies between an actual municipal boundary that existed on April 1 of the year of a federal decennial census and an intersecting municipal boundary that deviates from the actual municipal boundary on that date if the deviating boundary was used by the U.S. bureau of the census to enumerate the population of the municipality in that census.
If a block is affected by an annexation or detachment which establishes a municipal boundary that subdivides the block, the municipalities in which the block is contained shall incorporate only the portion of the block contained within their boundaries in their division ordinances or resolutions.
Except as provided in par. (c)
, the division ordinance or resolution shall number all wards in the municipality with unique whole numbers in consecutive order, beginning with the number one, shall designate the polling place for each ward, and shall describe the boundaries of each ward consistent with the conventions set forth in s. 4.003
. The ordinance or resolution shall be accompanied by a list of the block numbers used by the U.S. bureau of the census that are wholly or partly contained within each ward, with any block numbers partly contained within a ward identified, and a map of the municipality which illustrates the revised ward boundaries. If the legislature, in an act redistricting legislative districts under article IV, section 3, of the constitution
, or in redistricting congressional districts, establishes a district boundary within a municipality that does not coincide with the boundary of a ward established under the ordinance or resolution of the municipality, the municipal governing body shall, no later than April 10 of the 2nd year following the year of the federal decennial census on which the act is based, amend the ordinance or resolution to the extent required to effect the act. The amended ordinance or resolution shall designate the polling place for any ward that is created to effect the legislative act. Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed to compel a county or city to alter or redraw supervisory or aldermanic districts.
Within 5 days after adoption or enactment of an ordinance or resolution under this section or any amendment thereto, the municipal clerk shall transmit one copy of the ordinance or resolution or the amendment to the county clerk of each county in which the municipality is contained, accompanied by the list and map specified in par. (a)
. Each copy shall identify the name of the municipality and the county or counties in which it is located.
No later than October 15 of each year following the year of a federal decennial census, each municipal clerk shall file a report with the county clerk of each county in which the municipality is contained confirming the boundaries of the municipality and of all wards in the municipality. The report shall be accompanied by a map of the municipality and a list of the block numbers of which the municipality and each ward within the municipality are comprised. Within 5 days after notice to the municipal clerk of a judgment that has the effect of changing the municipal boundaries, the clerk shall file the same report. Each report filed under this paragraph shall identify the name of the municipality and the county or counties in which it is located.
Except as provided in subd. 2.
, no later than January 15 and July 15 of each year, the county clerk shall transmit to the legislative technology services bureau a report confirming the boundaries of each municipality, ward, and supervisory district in the county together with a map of the county, in an electronic format approved by the legislative technology services bureau. Each report shall be current to the nearest January 1 or July 1 preceding the date of the report.
In each year following the year of a federal decennial census, the July report shall instead be transmitted no later than November 1 and shall be current to the date of the report. The November 1 report shall be accompanied by a list of the block numbers of which the county and each municipality and ward within the county are comprised.
Wards that are created to effect an act of the legislature redistricting legislative districts or congressional districts and wards authorized under sub. (2) (bm)
, or (f)
may be numbered with a combination of whole numbers and letters.
When a town is divided into wards, the annual town meeting shall be held in a location authorized under s. 60.11 (3) (a)
Following any municipality-wide special federal census of population, the governing body of the municipality in which the special census was held may, by ordinance or resolution, adjust the ward boundaries, but no ward line adjustment may cross the boundary of a congressional, assembly, or supervisory district. The municipal clerk shall transmit copies of the ordinance or resolution in compliance with sub. (4) (b)
No later than 30 days before each election, the governing body of any municipality may by resolution combine 2 or more wards for voting purposes to facilitate using a common polling place. Whenever wards are so combined, the original ward numbers shall continue to be utilized for all official purposes. Except as otherwise authorized under this paragraph, every municipality having a population of 35,000 or more shall maintain separate returns for each ward so combined. In municipalities having a population of 35,000 or more, the governing body may provide in a resolution that returns for any ward having a population of 20 or less be combined with returns for any adjacent ward, if the total population of the combined wards does not exceed the applicable population range under sub. (2) (b)
for wards in that municipality. In municipalities having a population of less than 35,000, the governing body may provide in the resolution that returns shall be maintained only for each group of combined wards at any election. Whenever a governing body provides that returns shall be maintained only for combined wards under this paragraph, the municipality shall report separate results for each separate ballot required under ss. 5.58
. The municipal clerk shall transmit a copy of the resolution to the county clerk of each county in which the municipality is contained. In municipalities having a population of less than 35,000, the resolution shall remain in effect for each election until modified or rescinded, or until a new division is made under this section. Whenever needed for purposes of this paragraph, the municipal clerk shall determine the population of each ward in his or her municipality. If the population of a ward cannot be determined from census results, the clerk shall determine the population of the smallest unit encompassing the entire ward that can be determined from census results. The clerk shall then divide the land area of the ward by the land area of that unit. The clerk shall then multiply that result by the population of the unit to determine the population of the ward for purposes of this paragraph.
If a new municipality is created or if part of a municipality is annexed to a city or village during a decennial period after April 1 of the year of the federal decennial census, the governing body of any municipality to which territory is attached or from which territory is detached, without regard to the time provisions of sub. (1) (b)
, may, by ordinance or resolution, create new wards or adjust the existing wards in that municipality to the extent required to reflect the change. If a municipality is consolidated with another municipality during a decennial period after April 1 of the year of the federal decennial census, the governing body of the consolidated municipality, without regard to the time provisions under sub. (1) (b)
, may, by ordinance or resolution, create new wards or adjust the existing wards of the municipality to the extent required to reflect the change. No ward line adjustment under this subsection may cross the boundary of a congressional, assembly, or supervisory district. Within 5 days after adoption of the ordinance or resolution, the municipal clerk shall transmit copies of the ordinance or resolution making the adjustment to the county clerk in compliance with sub. (4) (b)
Until divided, all elections are held in the established wards.
History: 1971 c. 304
, 29 (2)
; 1977 c. 26
; 1979 c. 260
; 1981 c. 4
; 1981 c. 314
; 1983 a. 29
; 1983 a. 484
; 1983 a. 538
; 1985 a. 304
; 1987 a. 391
; 1991 a. 5
; 1993 a. 213
; 1995 a. 201
; 1999 a. 182
; 2005 a. 149
; 2011 a. 39
; 2013 a. 155
; 2015 a. 55
The court properly voided the city's plan and adopted the county's plan, even though the county did not adopt the plan within 60 days of receiving census data. County of La Crosse v. City of La Crosse, 108 Wis. 2d 560
, 322 N.W.2d 531
(Ct. App. 1982).
Enforcement of division requirement.
If any municipality fails to comply with s. 5.15
, the county in which the municipality is located or any elector of the municipality may submit to the circuit court for any county in which the municipality is located within 14 days from the expiration of the 60-day period under s. 5.15 (1) (b)
a proposed plan for the division of the municipality into wards in compliance with this section. If the circuit court finds that the existing division of the municipality into wards fails to comply with s. 5.15
, it shall review the plan submitted by the petitioner and after reasonable notice to the municipality may promulgate the plan, or any other plan in compliance with s. 5.15
, as a temporary ward plan for the municipality to remain in effect until superseded by a ward plan enacted or adopted by the governing body in compliance with s. 5.15
History: 1985 a. 304
; 2011 a. 39
Polling places. 5.25(1)(1)
All elections under chs. 5
shall be held at the polling places provided in this section. The places chosen shall be public buildings, unless the use of a public building for this purpose is impracticable or the use of a nonpublic building better serves the needs of the electorate, as determined by the authority charged with the responsibility for establishing polling places under sub. (2)
In cities over 500,000 population, polling shall be at the places established by the board of election commissioners. In all other cities and in villages and towns, polling shall be at the places established by the governing body.
Polling places shall be established for each election at least 30 days before the election.
Each polling place shall be accessible to all individuals with disabilities. The commission shall ensure that the voting system used at each polling place will permit all individuals with disabilities to vote without the need for assistance and with the same degree of privacy that is accorded to nondisabled electors voting at the same polling place. This paragraph does not apply to any individual who is disqualified from voting under s. 6.03 (1) (a)
In any jurisdiction that is subject to the requirement under 42 USC 1973aa-1a
to provide voting materials in any language other than English, the commission shall ensure that the voting system used at each polling place in that jurisdiction is in compliance with 42 USC 1973aa-1a
No later than June 30 of each odd-numbered year, the commission shall submit a report on impediments to voting faced by elderly and handicapped individuals to the appropriate standing committees of the legislature under s. 13.172 (3)
. In preparing its report under this paragraph, the commission shall consult with appropriate advocacy groups representing the elderly and handicapped populations.
Except as authorized in par. (b)
, all electors within a ward shall vote at the same polling place.
The municipal clerk or board of election commissioners of a municipality in which an elderly or handicapped elector resides may reassign the elector to a polling place within the municipality other than the polling place serving the elector's residence in order to permit the elector to utilize a polling place that is accessible to elderly or handicapped individuals.
The electors of more than one ward in the same municipality may vote at a single polling place.
Polling place requirements. 5.35(1)
On election days, every polling place shall properly display the national flag during all hours the polls are open.
(2) Voting booths.
There shall be one voting booth for every 200 electors who voted at the last general election. The booths shall have a surface on which to write or work and be sufficiently enclosed to assure privacy for the elector and anyone lawfully assisting the elector while marking the elector's ballot.
(3) Ballot boxes.
Where the voting procedure makes it necessary, there shall be a separate ballot box for each form of ballot at each polling place. There shall be a suitable lock and key for each, and an opening no larger than is sufficient to receive a single ballot or a single folded ballot if the box is used for deposit of paper ballots. If the electors of more than one ward use the same polling place, there shall be separate ballot boxes provided for the electors of each ward, unless combined ballot boxes are authorized in accordance with s. 5.15 (6) (b)
(4) Layout; organization.
All voting booths and machines shall be placed apart from other activities in the polling place, with their exteriors in full view of the election officials. Only the proper election officials, persons observing the proceedings under s. 7.41
, persons assisting voters under s. 6.82 (2)
and electors receiving, preparing or depositing their ballots or casting their votes on the machines are permitted in the voting area. Except where assistance is authorized, only one elector at a time is permitted in a voting booth or machine.
(5) Activities restricted.
No polling place may be situated so as to interfere with or distract election officials from carrying out their duties. The municipal clerk and election inspectors shall prevent interference with and distraction of electors at polling places.
At each polling place in the state, the municipal clerk or board of election commissioners shall post the following materials, positioned so that they may be readily observed by electors entering the polling place or waiting in line to vote:
The relevant portions of the voting instructions in the type B notice for the election as specified in s. 10.02 (3)
and, for each referendum on the ballot, the text of the type C notice specified in s. 10.01 (2) (c)
A copy of the election fraud laws provided in s. 12.13 (1)
and (3) (intro)
, and (x)
, together with the applicable penalties provided in s. 12.60 (1)
General information prescribed by the commission on federal laws relating to election fraud and misrepresentation in federal elections.
The date of the election and the hours during which the polling place is open.
Instructions prescribed by the commission for electors for whom proof of identification is required under s. 6.79 (2)
or for whom proof of residence under s. 6.34
is required under s. 6.55 (2)
General information prescribed by the commission concerning voting rights under applicable state and federal laws, including the method of redress for any alleged violations of those rights.
Any other voting information directed to be posted by the commission.
At each polling place in the state where a consolidated ballot under s. 5.655
is used or an electronic voting system is utilized at a partisan primary election incorporating a ballot upon which electors may mark votes for candidates of more than one recognized political party, the municipal clerk or board of election commissioners shall prominently post a sign in the form prescribed by the commission warning electors in substance that on any ballot with votes cast for candidates of more than one recognized political party, no votes cast for any candidates for partisan office will be counted unless a preference for a party is made. If the elector designates a preference, only votes cast for candidates of that preference will be counted.
At each polling place located in a municipality that is served by more than one polling place for an election, the municipal clerk or board of election commissioners shall prominently post a map of the geographic area served by the polling place for that election. The posting shall clearly show the boundaries of the ward or wards served by the polling place for that election.
Notice of voting by individuals with disabilities.
Any individual with a disability may notify a municipal clerk that he or she intends to vote at a polling place on election day and may request that a specific type of accommodation be provided that will facilitate his or her voting.
History: 2003 a. 265
Voting machine requirements. 5.37(1)
Voting machines shall give every elector a reasonable opportunity to vote for any person for any office and on any proposition the elector is entitled to vote on, assure privacy to the elector so no one will know how the elector is voting or has voted, preclude the electors from voting for persons or propositions upon which they are not entitled to vote and from voting more than once for the same office or on the same proposition. Voting machines shall be constructed to lock so they cannot be manipulated, tampered with, or show the number of votes registered for any candidate or proposition while voting is in progress. The machines shall permit voting a split ticket and shall record each vote cast.
When 2 or more wards or aldermanic districts are joined to use a voting machine, under s. 5.15 (6) (b)
, the machine shall be constructed to allow the electors to vote for all nominated candidates and issues for their aldermanic district or ward, but for no other.
For presidential electors one device shall be provided to vote for all of one party's electoral candidates at the same time. The device shall be opposite or adjacent to the names of the party's candidates for president and vice president.
Voting machines may be used at primary elections when they comply with subs. (1)
and the following provisions: All candidates' names entitled to appear on the ballots at the primary shall appear on the machine; the elector cannot vote for candidates of more than one party, whenever the restriction applies; the elector may secretly select the party for which he or she wishes to vote; the elector may vote for as many candidates for each office as he or she is lawfully entitled to vote for, but no more.
Polling places may have more than one voting machine.
Use of voting machines or systems.