Wisconsin Elections Commission
- Election Observer Rules-at-a-Glance (PDF)
The State of Wisconsin permits individuals to observe voting and the election administration process at polling places on Election Day. It also permits observers to view the absentee voting process in the municipal clerk's office, central count processes, recounts, and voting in residential care facilities and nursing homes.
These Rules-at-a-Glance outline the Wisconsin Elections Commission's interpretation of statutes governing the conduct of election observers.
At the Polling Place, an Election Observer must:
- Notify the chief election inspector she/he is at the polling place to observe
- Follow the directives of the chief election inspector or designee
- Provide photo identification
- Complete and sign an election observer log
- Wear an Election Observer tag or badge
- The chief election inspector is in charge of the polling place. All inquiries should be made of the chief election inspector or designee
- Challenges to voters must be filed with the chief election inspector or designee. Follow the process outlined by Wisconsin Administrative Rule EL Chapter 9
- Candidates are allowed in the polling place only after it has closed at 8:00 p.m.
- Polling places in Wisconsin are open from 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.
- End of night procedures, including the counting of ballots, are conducted as an open meeting and members of the public may observe.
Observers are not entitled to view registration forms, proof of residence documents or the observer log on Election Day. Observers may ask the chief inspector or designee to view other documents, such as the poll list, that are available when doing so will not delay or disrupt the process, but this may not be possible when polls are busy, and they may not view confidential information. The chief inspector or designee has sole discretion to determine whether such documents may be viewed or photographed during voting hours.
Election Observers may not:
- Engage in electioneering*
- Video and still cameras are not allowed
- Handle official election documents
- Have conversations about candidates, parties or ballot questions
- Make calls / use cell phones for voice calls inside the polling area (texting or other silent usage is acceptable if it is not disruptive)
- Wear clothing or buttons related to candidates, parties or referenda that is intended to influence the election
- Interact with voters, except when requested
- View confidential information on the poll list.
- Enter vehicles of curbside voters
* Electioneering is defined in Wisconsin law as any activity which is intended to influence voting at an Election. Wis Stat. § 12. 03
Observers from communications media organizations shall identify themselves and the organization they represent to the chief inspector upon arriving at the polling place. The inspector shall record the information on the EL-104, Inspectors Statement. Video and still cameras are allowed if their use is not disruptive or show how an elector has voted.
Polling Place Accessibility Assessments:
Individuals may assess accessibility requirements in Wisconsin polling places if the following rules are observed:
- Assessors should notify the municipal clerk at least 24 hours in advance
- Assessors may wear identifying name tags or shirts
- Assessors may work outside the observers’ area unless their work is judged to be disruptive
- Assessors may take still photos or videotape for documentation if their use is not disruptive
- Election officials - clerks, chief election inspectors and poll workers -should facilitate the work of accessibility assessors
Election Observation at Other Locations
Municipal Clerk's Office
Observers may be present during absentee voting in the clerk's office (if it's in a public location). The municipal clerk is in charge, and observers shall follow the clerk's directives. Video and still cameras are not allowed.
Residential Care Facilities & Nursing Homes
Only observers appointed by the two major political parties may be present during absentee voting in residential care facilities and nursing homes. The special voting deputies are in charge, and observers shall follow the deputies’ directives. Video and still cameras are not allowed.
Observers may be present during absentee voting in a centralized vote counting location. The municipal clerk is in charge, and observers shall follow the clerk's directives. Video and still cameras are allowed if their use is not disruptive or show how an elector has voted.
Observers may be present during election recounts, including candidates and their counsel. The board of canvassers is in charge, and observers shall follow the board's directives. Video and still cameras are allowed if their use is not disruptive or show how an elector has voted.