The Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) was established in 2016 by the Wisconsin Legislature to carry out a wide range of functions related to statewide elections administration.
Elections in Wisconsin are conducted by more than 1,800 local clerks at the town, village, city, and county levels, creating one of the most decentralized election systems in the nation.
The WEC serves as a resource for local clerks by providing them with education, training, and support materials. The agency also fulfills several statewide election responsibilities, such as helping ensure compliance with federal and state election laws, ensuring election accuracy, and maintaining the statewide voter registration database.
The WEC is governed by six Commissioners, with three Commissioners representing the Democratic Party and three representing the Republican Party. Two of the Democrats and two of the Republicans are selected by their respective Legislative leadership. One Democrat and one Republican must be former municipal or county clerks and are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.
Commissioners serve in a part-time capacity for staggered five-year terms.
Commissioners elect officers every two years. Each term, the offices of chair and vice-chair switch between the members appointed by Democratic and Republican Legislative Leaders. The secretary is the clerk-appointee from the opposite party.
The Commission’s administrator, required by law to be nonpartisan, is selected by the Commissioners and confirmed by the Senate. As Wisconsin’s chief election official, the administrator serves as the agency’s chief executive, leads the agency’s non-partisan staff, and carries out the Commission’s directives.
State Elections Administration
LEGAL COMPLIANCE: Among many other roles, the agency ensures compliance with federal and state election laws. WEC staff members review and evaluate nomination papers and other documents to recommend to the Commission as to whether state and federal candidates qualify for ballot access.
TESTING/AUDITS: Agency staff oversee testing of electronic voting systems and make recommendations regarding Commission approval of such systems. Staff also conduct accessibility audits of polling places to ensure voters with disabilities have needed access to polling places.
VOTER DATABASE: Commission staff developed and now maintain the statewide voter registration system (WisVote) as well as other election management IT systems and applications.
GENERAL OPERATIONS: WEC staff prepare reports and documentation to assist the Commission in making decisions related to election administration at its regular meetings. Staff also work with the Legislature in its development of election-related legislation. In recent years the Commission has increased its focus on elections security and protecting state and local elections systems.
ELECTION CERTIFICATION: The Commission chairperson is responsible for certifying state and non-presidential federal election results, including for governor, attorney general, U.S. Senate, Assembly, state Senate, and various court positions.
During the presidential election, the Commission Chairperson determines the result of the election based on the certified result statements submitted by each of the 72 counties. A copy of the canvass determination for president and a statement of ascertainment is then sent to the Governor, who signs off on the slate of presidential electors.
Support for Local Election Officials
Commission staff provide education, training, and administrative and technical support to local election officials, on both a cyclical and daily basis.
EDUCATION: Courses and classes for election officials on both elections administration responsibilities and tasks involving the security and administration of the statewide voter registration system are available through an extensive webinar series and on The Learning Center, which is the agency’s online education and training center.
TRAINING: The agency offers in-person and online presentations to clerks along with various professional associations and other groups. WEC staff also prepare detailed manuals to assist local election officials in carrying out their election–related responsibilities.
SUPPORT: Local elections officials rely on the WisVote application and agency staff support to conduct all federal, state, and local elections. Ongoing support to clerks includes review of ballot formats, providing election forms, and answering inquiries regarding voting equipment and election procedures. Local clerks also get WEC support in regard to completing tasks in WisVote, such as printing poll books, tracking ballot issuance and voter participation, updating voter registration records, and maintaining candidate lists and polling place locations.