Municipal clerks are the officials primarily responsible for election administration in Wisconsin. A “board of election commissioners" is established in Wisconsin's high population cities and counties to carry out the duties otherwise accomplished by municipal and county clerks everywhere else. The phrase “municipal clerk or board of election commissioners" appears in tandem all over the election statutes because that describes the duties of local election officials. State ex rel. Zignego v. Wisconsin Elections Commission, 2021 WI 32
, 396 Wis. 2d 391
, 957 N.W.2d 208
Election commissioners, duties and regulations. 7.21(1)(1)
All powers and duties assigned to the municipal or county clerk or the municipal or county board of canvassers under chs. 5
shall be carried out by the municipal or county board of election commissioners or its executive director, unless specifically retained or assigned in this section or s. 7.22
The county clerk shall serve as executive director of the county board of election commissioners. The clerk shall perform whatever duties the board of election commissioners assigns to him or her. An executive director of the city board of election commissioners shall be appointed under s. 62.51
The board of election commissioners is authorized to employ additional clerical assistants to carry out its necessary duties. The assistants' salaries shall be fixed by the governing body of the municipality or county.
The board of election commissioners may procure a seal to authenticate official papers and documents.
The city council and county board shall provide office space in the city hall and county courthouse, respectively, pay all the necessary expenses, cooperate with the board of election commissioners, provide storage space for the election equipment and supplies and assist with the moving and conducting of the elections as necessary.
Municipal board of election commissioners. 7.22(1)(1)
The common council shall determine the salaries of the election commissioners and shall include sufficient funds in its budget to allow the municipal board of election commissioners to fulfill its duties.
All expenses shall be paid upon order of the municipal board of election commissioners, signed by the chairperson and executive director and countersigned by the city comptroller. The orders, made payable to persons in whose favor issued, shall be the vouchers for the city treasurer for the payment of the orders.
The municipal board of election commissioners shall prepare and furnish copies of all registrations, books, maps, instructions, and forms pertaining to the rules for registration and conducting elections for the use and guidance of the election officials.
The municipal board of election commissioners shall compile and publish a biennial report, containing election statistics and returns of all primaries and elections held within their city and county. Copies of the same shall be distributed to persons in such quantities as the municipal board of election commissioners deems proper.
The chief of police shall station a police officer at polling places designated by the municipal board of election commissioners for each election.
Destruction of election materials. 7.23(1)(1)
All materials and supplies associated with an election, except as provided in sub. (2)
, may be destroyed according to the following schedule:
Except as provided in par. (am)
, unused materials after an election and the contents of the blank ballot box after a primary may be destroyed at a time and in a manner designated by the appropriate clerk.
Unused ballots may be discarded or destroyed no earlier than the day after the latest day for the filing of a petition for a recount under s. 9.01
for any office on the ballots.
Registration forms of electors whose registrations are changed to ineligible status under s. 6.50 (7)
may be destroyed 4 years after the change, unless an elector becomes eligible again during that period.
Financial reports may be destroyed 6 years after the date of receipt. Financial registration statements may be destroyed 6 years after termination of registration.
Poll lists created for any election may be destroyed 22 months after the election at which they were created.
Except as authorized in par. (g)
, ballots, applications for absentee ballots, registration forms, or other records and papers requisite to voting at any federal election, other than registration cards, may be destroyed after 22 months.
Detachable recording units and compartments for use with tabulating equipment for an electronic voting system may be cleared or erased 14 days after any primary and 21 days after any other election. Before clearing or erasing the units or compartments, a municipal clerk shall transfer the data contained in the units or compartments to a disk or other recording medium which may be erased or destroyed 22 months after the election to which the data relates. The requirement to transfer data does not apply to units or compartments for use with tabulating equipment for an electronic voting system that was approved for use prior to January 1, 2009, and that is not used in a federal election.
Except as provided in par. (f)
, ballots may be destroyed 30 days after any election.
Official canvasses may be destroyed 10 years after the election to which they relate.
Election notices, and proofs of publication and correspondence filed in connection with such notices may be destroyed one year after the date of the election to which they relate.
All other materials and supplies associated with an election may be destroyed 90 days after the election.
If a recount is pending or if the time allowed for filing a recount petition at any election or an appeal or petition for review of any recount determination or decision at an election has not expired, no materials may be destroyed until after the recount is completed and the applicable time period has expired. In addition, if there is litigation pending with respect to a recount at an election, materials may be destroyed and recording units or compartments may be cleared or erased only by order of the court in which litigation is pending. Upon petition of the attorney general or a district attorney or U.S. attorney for the affected jurisdiction, a circuit judge for the affected jurisdiction may order that specified materials not be destroyed or that specified recorders, units or compartments not be cleared or erased as otherwise authorized under this subsection until the court so permits.
Title to election materials.
The filing of a nomination paper, ballot application, financial report, affidavit, or other form or statement with the appropriate official or agency responsible for accepting such materials under chs. 5
irrevocably transfers the legal title to such official or agency, regardless of the sufficiency of the filing. The official or agency shall retain all election materials until destruction or other disposition is authorized under s. 7.23
History: 1975 c. 93
; 1979 c. 89
Voting machine officials' duties. 7.25(1)(1)
The municipal clerk of each municipality in which voting machines are used is responsible for the proper ballot being placed on each machine, the sample ballots, setting, adjusting, and putting the machine in order to use in voting when delivered to the ward. For the purpose of labeling, setting, adjusting and putting the voting machines in order, one or more competent voting machine custodians may be employed.
Under the direction of the municipal clerk, the custodian shall label or insert, set, adjust, put in order and deliver the machines with all necessary furniture and appliances to the rooms where the election will be held for each ward at least one hour before the time set for opening the polls on election day.
In preparing a voting machine for an election according to the directions furnished, the custodian shall arrange the machine and ballot so both will meet all the requirements for voting and counting the election in the manner provided for in machine construction.
When a voting machine is properly prepared for an election and delivered to the election ward, it shall be locked and sealed against any movement and the governing body or board of election commissioners shall provide proper protection to prevent tampering with the machines. The custodians preparing the machines shall deliver the keys for the machines to the municipal clerk or executive director of the board of election commissioners together with a written report of each machine's condition.
Before an election each election official serving at a polling place where voting machines are used shall be instructed in their use and their duties in connection with them by the municipal clerk, who shall call as many meetings to give instructions to the election officials as are necessary. Officials and trainees may be compensated for attendance. Any person who does not understand the machines shall not be paid nor be allowed to serve.
Where voting machines are used, the election officials for each ward shall meet at their proper polling place at least 15 minutes before the time set for opening of the polls to arrange the voting machines and furniture to properly conduct the election.
Before opening the polls, the election officials shall do all of the following:
Compare the ballots on the machines with the sample ballots furnished by the municipal clerk to ensure that the names, numbers, and letters on the machine ballots and sample ballots agree.
Examine the seal on each machine to see that the seal has not been broken.
Examine the counter on each machine to see that each counter registers 000.
If any counter on any machine does not register 000, the counter number and the number showing on the counter shall be recorded, signed by all the election officials, and a copy shall be conspicuously posted by the inspectors at the polling place during polling hours.
After the inspection under par. (b)
, on the forms furnished, the election officials shall certify the condition of each voting machine and its counters. Each form shall be signed by each election official. After the election, one copy of each machine's certification shall be delivered with each copy of the election returns.
Appointment of election officials. 7.30(1)(a)(a)
Except as authorized under par. (b)
, there shall be 7 inspectors for each polling place at each election. Except as authorized in par. (b)
, in municipalities where voting machines are used, the municipal governing body may reduce the number of inspectors to 5. A municipal governing body may provide for the appointment of additional inspectors whenever more than one voting machine is used or wards are combined under s. 5.15 (6) (b)
. A municipal governing body may provide by ordinance for the selection of alternate officials or the selection of 2 or more sets of officials to work at different times on election day, and may permit the municipal clerk or board of election commissioners to establish different working hours for different officials assigned to the same polling place. Alternate officials shall also be appointed in a number sufficient to maintain adequate staffing of polling places. Except for inspectors who are appointed under par. (b)
and officials who are appointed without regard to party affiliation under sub. (4) (c)
, additional officials shall be appointed in such a manner that the total number of officials is an odd number and the predominant party under sub. (2)
is represented by one more official than the other party.
Each municipality may appoint one additional inspector to serve at each polling place without regard to party affiliation who shall serve as a greeter to answer questions and to direct electors to the proper locations for registration and voting and who shall be available to substitute for other election officials who must leave the room during the voting process.
(2) Qualifications and procedure. 7.30(2)(a)
Only election officials appointed under this section or s. 6.875
may conduct an election. Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph and in ss. 7.15 (1) (k)
and 7.52 (1) (b)
, each election official shall be a qualified elector of a county in which the municipality where the official serves is located, and each chief inspector shall be a qualified elector of the municipality in which the chief inspector serves. If no qualified candidate for chief inspector is available or if the chief inspector is appointed to fill a vacancy under par. (b)
, the person so appointed need not be a qualified elector of the municipality. If a municipal clerk or deputy clerk is appointed to fill a vacancy under par. (b)
, the clerk or deputy clerk need not be a resident of the county, but shall be a resident of the state. No more than 2 individuals holding the office of clerk or deputy clerk may serve without regard to county residency in any municipality at any election. All officials appointed under this section shall be able to read and write the English language, be capable, and be of good understanding, and may not be a candidate for any office to be voted for at an election at which they serve. An individual holding a local public office, as defined in s. 19.42 (7w)
, may be appointed to serve as an election official under this section without having to vacate the local public office. In 1st class cities, they may hold no public office other than notary public. Except as authorized under subs. (1) (b)
and (4) (c)
, all inspectors shall be affiliated with one of the 2 recognized political parties which received the largest number of votes for president, or governor in nonpresidential general election years, in the ward or combination of wards served by the polling place at the last election. Excluding the inspector who may be appointed under sub. (1) (b)
, the party which received the largest number of votes is entitled to one more inspector than the party receiving the next largest number of votes at each polling place. Whenever 2 or more inspectors are required to perform a function within a polling place and both parties that are entitled to submit nominees have done so, the chief inspector shall assign, insofar as practicable, an equal number of inspectors from the nominees of each party.
Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph, a pupil who is 16 or 17 years of age and who is enrolled in grades 9 to 12 in a public or private school, in a home-based private educational program, as defined in s. 115.001 (3g)
, or in a tribal school, as defined in s. 115.001 (15m)
, may serve as an inspector at the polling place serving the pupil's residence, with the approval of the pupil's parent or guardian. Any pupil who has at least a 3.0 grade point average or the equivalent may serve. In addition, a school board, governing body of a private school, as defined in s. 115.001 (3d)
, tribal school, or administrator of a home-based private educational program may establish criteria for service by a pupil who does not have at least a 3.0 grade point average or the equivalent. A pupil may serve as an inspector at a polling place under this paragraph only if at least one election official at the polling place other than the chief inspector is a qualified elector of this state. No pupil may serve as chief inspector at a polling place under this paragraph. Before appointment by any municipality of a pupil as an inspector under this paragraph, the municipal clerk shall obtain written authorization from the pupil's parent or guardian for the pupil to serve for the election for which he or she is appointed. In addition, if a pupil does not have at least a 3.0 grade point average or the equivalent, the municipal clerk shall obtain written certification from the principal of the school where the pupil is enrolled, or the administrator of the home-based private educational program in which the pupil is enrolled, that the pupil meets any criteria established by the school board, governing body, or administrator of the home-based private educational program for service as an inspector. Upon appointment of a pupil to serve as an inspector, the municipal clerk shall notify the principal of the school where the pupil is enrolled, or the administrator of the home-based private educational program in which the pupil is enrolled, of the name of the pupil and the date of the election at which the pupil has been appointed to serve.
When a vacancy occurs in an office under this section, the vacancy shall be filled by appointment of the municipal clerk. Unless the vacancy occurs in the position of an inspector appointed under sub. (1) (b)
, the vacancy shall be filled from the remaining names on the lists submitted under sub. (4)
or from additional names submitted by the chairperson of the county party committee of the appropriate party under sub. (4)
whenever names are submitted under sub. (4) (d)
. If the vacancy is due to candidacy, sickness or any other temporary cause, the appointment shall be a temporary appointment and effective only for the election at which the temporary vacancy occurs. The same qualifications that applied to original appointees shall be required of persons who fill vacancies except that if a municipal clerk or deputy clerk fills the vacancy, the clerk or deputy, but not more than a total of 2 individuals in any municipality, may serve without regard to the clerk's or deputy's county of residence, if the clerk or deputy meets the other qualifications.
The governing body of any municipality may require all persons serving as election officials to prove their ability to read and write English and to have a general knowledge of the election laws. Examinations may be given to prove the qualifications can be met. The municipal clerk shall ensure that all training meets the training requirements prescribed in rules promulgated by the commission under ss. 7.31
Not less than 30 days before any election the governing body or board of election commissioners of any municipality, by resolution, may authorize the municipal clerk or executive director of the board of election commissioners to select and employ tabulators for any election. Such authorization applies to the elections specified in the resolution, and if not specified, applies until the authorization is modified or revoked.
The tabulators shall assist and be under the direction of the election inspectors after the close of the polls.
Except in cities where there is a board of election commissioners, the mayor, president or board chairperson of each municipality shall nominate to the governing body no later than their last regular meeting in December of each odd-numbered year the necessary election officials for each polling place and any election officials required under s. 7.52 (1) (b)
. If no regular meeting is scheduled, the mayor, president or chairperson shall call a special meeting for the purpose of considering nominations no later than December 31.
The 2 dominant parties, under sub. (2)
, are each responsible for submitting a list of names from which all appointees to inspector positions, other than appointees to inspector positions authorized under sub. (1) (b)
, shall be chosen. Each person submitting the name of one or more nominees shall certify on his or her list of nominations that the person has contacted each nominee whose name appears on the list and that each nominee has agreed to serve as an election official. The nominations shall be submitted as follows:
In cities where there is a board of election commissioners, the county committee under s. 8.17
of each of the 2 recognized political parties described under sub. (2)
shall submit a certified list no later than November 30 of each odd-numbered year containing the names of nominees from that party for each of the voting wards in the aldermanic district. For inspectors serving under s. 7.52 (1) (b)
, the county committees under s. 8.17
of the 2 recognized political parties described under sub. (2)
shall submit a certified list containing the names of nominees from that party who are to be appointed under s. 7.52 (1) (b)
. The chairperson may designate any individual whose name is submitted as a first choice nominee. The chairperson shall sign any list submitted under this subdivision. The board of election commissioners shall appoint, no later than December 31 of odd-numbered years, at least 5 inspectors for each ward. Unless nonappointment is authorized under par. (e)
, the board of election commissioners shall appoint all first choice nominees for so long as positions are available. The board of election commissioners shall appoint other individuals in its discretion and may designate such alternates as it deems advisable.
In a municipality other than a city or village located in a county having a population of more than 750,000, the committees organized under s. 8.17
for each of the 2 recognized political parties described under sub. (2)
shall submit a list containing the names of nominees from that party. The chairperson of each of the 2 committees shall submit the list to the mayor, president, chairperson, or clerk of the municipality, or to his or her agent, or shall deliver or mail the list to the office of the municipality. If the chairperson submits the list to the municipal clerk or his or her agent, the clerk shall immediately forward the list to the mayor, president, or chairperson of the municipality. If committees are organized in subdivisions of a city, the chairperson of the city committee shall submit the list. If there is no municipal committee, the chairperson of the county or legislative district committee shall submit the list. Except as provided in par. (c)
, only those persons submitted by the chairperson of each committee under s. 8.17
may act as election officials. The chairperson of each committee under s. 8.17
may designate any individual whose name is submitted as a first choice nominee. The chairperson and secretary of the submitting committee shall sign the list.
In a city or village located in a county having a population of more than 750,000, other than a city where there is a board of election commissioners, if there is an aldermanic district or village member of a committee under s. 8.17
for the ward or wards where a polling place is located, the committee member shall submit a list containing the names of nominees from the recognized political party, described under sub. (2)
, represented by the committee member. For inspectors to be appointed under s. 7.52 (1) (b)
, the committee members of the committees under s. 8.17
for the 2 recognized political parties described under sub. (2)
for the municipality acting jointly shall submit a list containing the names of nominees from the party represented by the committee members of the committees for the municipality acting jointly. Nominations for inspectors to be appointed in a city or village where there is no aldermanic district or village committee member shall proceed in the same manner as in a municipality located in a county having a population of 750,000 or less. The appropriate committee member, committee members, or chairperson shall submit the list to the mayor, president, or clerk of the municipality, or to his or her agent, or shall deliver or mail the list to the office of the municipality. If the list is submitted to the municipal clerk or his or her agent, the clerk shall immediately forward the list to the mayor or president. Except as provided in par. (c)
, only those persons whose names are submitted as provided in this paragraph may act as election officials. The appropriate committee member, committee members, or chairperson may designate any individual whose name is submitted as a first choice nominee. The aldermanic district or village committee member or the chairperson of the appropriate committee shall sign the list.
Unless nonappointment is authorized under par. (e)
, upon submission of the lists of names as provided under subd. 2. a.
, the governing body shall appoint each first choice nominee for so long as positions to be filled from that list are available. The governing body shall appoint other nominees in its discretion. If any nominee is not appointed, the mayor, president, or chairperson of the municipality shall immediately nominate another person from the appropriate lists submitted and continue until the necessary number of election officials from each party is achieved at that meeting.
Except with respect to inspectors who are appointed under sub. (1) (b)
, for so long as nominees are made available by the political parties under this section, appointments may be made only from the lists of nominees submitted under this subsection. If the lists are not submitted by November 30 of the year in which appointments are to be made, the board of election commissioners shall appoint, or the mayor, president or chairperson of a municipality shall nominate, qualified persons whose names have not been submitted. The board of election commissioners shall give priority to appointing, and the mayor, president, or chairperson of the municipality shall give priority to nominating, qualified electors of the municipality for which no list of nominees was submitted. If an insufficient number of qualified electors of the municipality can be identified, the board of election commissioners may appoint, and the mayor, president, or chairperson of the municipality may nominate, qualified electors of a county within which the municipality is located. If an insufficient number of nominees appears on the lists as of November 30, the board of election commissioners shall similarly appoint, or the mayor, president or chairperson shall similarly nominate, sufficient individuals to fill the remaining vacancies. In addition, the mayor, president, or board chairperson of the municipality shall similarly nominate qualified persons to serve in the inspector positions authorized under sub. (1) (b)
. Any appointment under this paragraph which is made due to the lack of availability of names submitted under par. (b)
may be made without regard to party affiliation.
A party committee or aldermanic district or village committeeman or committeewoman under s. 8.17
may submit additional names for inclusion in its list of nominations under this section at any time for the purpose of filling vacancies that occur during a term of office. However, an appointment need at no time be delayed because of the lack of availability of party nominees.
If an appointing authority believes that, for good cause, it should not appoint an individual whose name is submitted as a first choice nominee under par. (b)
, it may request the commission to authorize nonappointment. The commission may permit nonappointment of an individual for cause demonstrated by an appointing authority.
(5) Oath of office.
Within 5 days after appointment of the election officials the municipal clerk shall give each appointee notice. The appointees shall file the official oath with the municipal clerk within 10 days after the mailing of the notice. Appointees to fill vacancies or any other election official who has not filed the oath, before receiving any ballots, shall sign the oath and return it to the municipal clerk. An inspector, after taking the oath, may administer any oath required to conduct an election.
Except as provided in par. (am)
, the appointed election officials shall hold office for 2 years and until their successors are appointed and qualified. They shall serve at every election held in their ward during their term of office.
A pupil appointed as an inspector under sub. (2) (am)
shall serve as an inspector only for the election for which he or she is appointed. Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed to limit the number of times a pupil may be appointed as an inspector.
Prior to the first election following the appointment of the inspectors, the municipal clerk shall appoint one of the inspectors at each polling place, other than an inspector who is appointed under sub. (1) (b)
, to serve as chief inspector. No person may serve as chief inspector at any election who is not certified by the commission under s. 7.31
at the time of the election. The chief inspector shall hold the position for the remainder of the term unless the inspector is removed by the clerk or the inspector ceases to be certified under s. 7.31
, except that whenever wards are combined or separated under s. 5.15 (6) (b)
, the municipal clerk shall appoint another inspector who is certified under s. 7.31
to serve as chief inspector at each polling place designated under s. 5.15 (6) (b)
. If a vacancy occurs in the position of chief inspector at any polling place, the municipal clerk shall appoint one of the other inspectors who is certified under s. 7.31
to fill the vacancy.
If any election official appointed under this section lacks the qualifications set forth in this section, fails to attend training sessions required under s. 7.15 (1) (e)
unless excused therefrom, is guilty of neglecting his or her official duties or commits official misconduct, the municipal clerk or board of election commissioners shall summarily remove the official from office and the vacancy shall be filled under sub. (2) (b)
History: 1971 c. 242
; 1971 c. 304
s. 29 (1)
, (2); 1971 c. 336
; 1973 c. 280
; 1975 c. 93
; 1977 c. 394
; 1979 c. 89
; 1983 a. 183
; 1985 a. 131
; 1985 a. 304
; 1987 a. 391
; 1989 a. 192
; 1995 a. 16
; 1997 a. 127
; 1999 a. 182
; 2001 a. 16
; 2005 a. 27
; 2007 a. 96
; 2009 a. 302
; 2011 a. 260
; 2013 a. 147
; 2015 a. 118
s. 266 (10)
; 2015 a. 195
; 2017 a. 207
; 2017 a. 326
; 2021 a. 34
Training and certification of chief inspectors. 7.31(1)(1)
The commission shall establish requirements for certification of individuals to serve as chief inspectors. The requirements shall include a requirement to attend at least one training session held under sub. (5)
before beginning service.
No individual may serve as a chief inspector at a polling place in an election unless the individual is certified by the commission to hold that office on the date of the election at which the individual serves.
The commission shall, upon application, issue certificates to qualified individuals who meet the requirements to be certified as chief inspectors. Each certificate shall carry an expiration date.
The commission shall require each individual to whom a certificate is issued under this section to meet requirements to maintain that certification. The requirements shall include a requirement to attend at least one training session held under sub. (5)
every 2 years during the period beginning on January 1 of each even-numbered year and ending on December 31 of the following year. The commission shall renew the certificate of any individual who requests renewal and who meets the requirements prescribed under this subsection.
The commission shall conduct regular training programs to ensure that individuals who are certified by the commission under this section are knowledgeable concerning their authority and responsibilities. The commission shall pay all costs required to conduct the training programs from the appropriation under s. 20.510 (1) (bm)
Training of other election officials. 7.315(1)(a)
The commission shall, by rule, prescribe the contents of the training that municipal clerks must provide to inspectors, other than chief inspectors, and to special voting deputies appointed under s. 6.875