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What to Expect During a Polling Place Accessibility Audit

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What to Expect During a Site Visit:

Auditors from the Wisconsin Elections Commission will review five different areas of a facility that serves as a polling place: the parking area, the pathway from the parking area to the accessible entrance, the accessible entrance, any interior routes to the voting area and the voting area itself.

Upon arrival at your polling place, the auditor will first come into the polling place and introduce themselves to the Chief Inspector.  They will be wearing a badge that identifies them as a representative of the Commission and will present a letter of introduction to the Chief Inspector that should be kept as a record of the visit and placed with the other election materials for that day. They will then provide a brief explanation of the audit process: 

  • The municipality, clerk and poll workers are not in any trouble.  The Commission routinely sends out a team of auditors to monitor polling place accessibility for every election.
  • The auditor will begin their survey in the parking area and work their way back inside to the voting area.
  • The whole process should take between 20 and 60 minutes and should not interrupt the processing of voters at the polling place
  • Photos may be taken to supplement the survey results.  Auditors are instructed to ensure that no voters or ballots are photographed and that the process of taking photographs does not interfere with the orderly operation of the polling place.
  • The Inspector’s Statement (EL-104) will be reviewed and, if applicable,  voting equipment security tamper evident seals on the accessible voting equipment and tabulator may need to be examined.  For some tabulators, this may require unlocking panels on the machine so that tamper evident seal numbers can be verified.
  • The auditors are not to sign in as observers.  The site visit should be recorded on the incident log on the Inspector’s Statement/EL-104, but the auditor is not an observer and is not restricted by rules regarding observer behavior at polling places.
  • A report documenting any identified problems will be generated after each site visit and the municipal clerk will receive an email from the Commission when the report is ready for viewing.
  • Auditors will review each site to determine if all required notices have been posted and if they have been printed in at least 18 point sized font.  A list of the required forms and notices can be found in the Election Day Manual.

Wisconsin Elections Commission Authority for Conducting Polling Place Accessibility Audits

The Wisconsin state statutes require the Commission to 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.”  Federal requirements under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) also mandate that all voters are entitled to vote a ballot both privately and independently.  

Wisconsin administrative code specifies that visitors to polling places who are there to ensure accessibility are not considered observers and are not restricted by the rules governing observer behavior.  This rule also states that polling place auditors can take photos in the polling place.