Clerks

There are 1,850 Municipal clerks and 72 County clerks in the State of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Elections Commission considers each of these clerks to be a partner in the process of carrying out open, fair and transparent elections. this page is a resource for clerks and other local election officials.

Wisvote:  Election management system used to manage the voter list, absentee applications and ballots, candidates, ballot styles, polling places and more.

Canvass: Election results reporting system used by clerks to create reports and share election results with WEC.

The Learning Center (TLC): One stop shop for all elections training materials including webinars, manuals, and interactive WisVote training videos and activities. 

MyVote: Voter portal that allows Wisconsin voters to register, request and track an absentee ballot, find their polling place, and more! 

Badger Voters: Self-service data request site where customers and request, receive a quote, purchase, and download voter, election participation, or absentee data.

AccessElections: Clerk portal where clerks can review accessibility audit results, make a plan to correct findings, and request polling place supplies. 

Clerks FAQ

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    HAVA Checks are comparisons between a voter registration record and a DMV or Social Security record.  They are also sometimes referred to as “DMV Checks.”  They are designed to catch typos and data entry errors to improve the quality of the voter registration list. They are not designed to be a qualification to vote.

    HAVA is the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which was passed in the wake of the problems in Florida following the 2000 election.  Among other things, HAVA required Wisconsin to create a statewide voter registration database and provided funding for that system.  Before 2006, when the system went online, Wisconsin law only required voter registration in larger cities.  In smaller towns, there was no voter registration, just a book where poll workers would write the names of voters when they came to vote.   
    Specifically, Section 303 of HAVA, titled “Computerized Statewide Voter Registration List Requirements and Requirements for Voters Who Register by Mail,” mandates the creation of a computerized list containing the name and registration information of every legally registered voter in the State, which shall serve as the official voter registration list for federal and state elections. HAVA § 303(a)(1)(A) codified at 52 U.S.C. § 21083(a)(1)(A).  HAVA requires that individuals, upon registering to vote, provide a current driver license number, if they have one, or last four digits of their Social Security Number, for those who do not. Voters who have neither a driver license nor a Social Security Number are assigned a separate identification number for purposes of the official registration list. HAVA § 303(a)(5)(A) codified at 52 U.S.C. § 21083(a)(5)(A).

    “HAVA Checks” (known more commonly as DMV Checks) occur automatically when the statewide voter registration system attempts to match data from voters with data from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Social Security Administration.  

    There are two kinds of DMV Checks. The first kind are run in batches overnight on voters who register on a paper form, whether in person or by mail. This check attempts to match the voter’s name, date of birth and driver license (or state ID) number.  If the voter does not have a Wisconsin driver license or state ID card, the system tries to match the name, date of birth and the last four digits of their Social Security Number with Social Security records.

    Checks for Online Voter Registration

    The second kind of DMV check happens during online voter registration (OVR).  Unlike the nightly HAVA check process, the OVR DMV check occurs nearly instantly to verify that a voter’s name, date of birth, license number, and jurisdiction match DMV records.  If the OVR DMV check does not match, the voter is not permitted to register online.  Therefore, all records with a source of “Online Registration” passed the OVR DMV check with a 100% match.

    Wisconsin law does require anyone who registers to vote online to correctly match four separate fields from their DMV record.  These DMV checks occur in real time, and there must be an exact match for the voter’s name, date of birth, DMV number and residence jurisdiction.  This check is required for proof of residence in registration.

    About HAVA Checks

    When people register to vote with their municipal clerk or at the polling place on Election Day, the WEC checks their names, dates of birth and driver license number against Wisconsin DMV records. If they do not have a Wisconsin driver license or state ID card, their names are matched with Social Security records.  These matches, known as HAVA checks, are made within 24 hours of the clerk entering the information in the statewide voter database. HAVA is an acronym for the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002.

    Approximately 5% of the people who registered to vote between January 1 and November 3, 2020, were at least initially non-matches with either DMV or Social Security databases.  That does not mean these voters are not real Wisconsin citizens.

    When there is not a match, we know that in most cases, it is the result of errors. The most common error (63%) is a mismatched name, often due to misspelling, name variation (Bob instead of Robert), nickname or a missing suffix missing (Jr. or Sr.). The next most common error (22%) is a driver license or state ID number mismatch.  Wisconsin DMV numbers have one letter and 13 digits, and non-matches often result from writing the number incorrectly on the voter registration form or entering it incorrectly in the voter database. Other innocent reasons for mismatches include typos in the data.  For example, one voter registered at the polling place on 8/11/2020.  The clerk inadvertently recorded the voter’s birthdate as 7/5/1990 instead of 7/15/1990, resulting in a non-match.

    When there is a non-match, a registered voter is never “removed” from the statewide voter database.  Neither Wisconsin nor federal law require a match, and Wisconsin law does not permit clerks or the WEC to remove a voter from the list for not matching.

    The issue of what happens with a HAVA Check mismatch is not new. In fact, it was extensively litigated in 2008 when the Wisconsin Attorney General sued the Government Accountability Board (WEC’s predecessor agency).  The AG claimed the GAB was required to remove voters with HAVA Check mismatches.

    In J.B. Van Hollen et. al v. Government Accountability Board et. al, the judge found that none of the provisions of HAVA affect the fundamental voter eligibility qualifications.  HAVA mandates action by States with regard to voting systems, accessibility for individuals with disabilities, and establishment and maintenance of the official statewide voter registration list.  HAVA establishes no additional voter qualifications, except in the limited case of a first-time voter who registered by mail and who must either provide a photo identification or current proof of residence, or else must vote by provisional ballot. A successful HAVA match eliminates this additional requirement.

    The court further determined that HAVA does not mandate the imposition of a consequence or penalty for a voter whose voter registration data does not precisely match information contained in the DOT or SSA databases. The HAVA match process also does not alter the voter eligibility requirements established by state law.  The court ultimately concluded that HAVA Checks are intended to assist in improving the quality of voter data in the State’s official voter registration list on an ongoing basis, not to convert an otherwise qualified voter into an ineligible voter.  The GAB adopted the court’s findings on January 15, 2009.  

    So what happens if the DMV Check doesn’t match?

    If there is a non-match, the voter’s record is flagged in the statewide voter database for clerks to review, and the clerk receives a DMV Check alert.  Clerks are asked to review non-matches to ensure a data entry error was not responsible for the non-match result.  Clerks often are able to identify things like data entry errors but will also attempt to contact voters whose non-matches they cannot resolve.  For the treatment of non-match records in the database, the WEC observes procedures established after litigation involving its predecessor agency, the Government Accountability Board (GAB).  In J.B. Van Hollen et. al v. Government Accountability Board et. al, Dane County Court Case 08CV4085, the judge found that none of the provisions of HAVA affect the fundamental voter eligibility qualifications.  HAVA mandates action by States with regard to voting systems, accessibility for individuals with disabilities, and establishment and maintenance of the official statewide voter registration list.  HAVA establishes no additional voter qualifications, except in the limited case of a first-time voter who registered by mail and who must either provide a photo identification or current proof of residence, or else must vote by provisional ballot. A successful HAVA match eliminates this additional requirement.

    The court further determined that HAVA does not mandate the imposition of a consequence or penalty for a voter whose voter registration data does not precisely match information contained in the DOT or SSA databases. The HAVA match process also does not alter the voter eligibility requirements established by state law.  Order in Dane County Court Case 08CV4085 at 10.  The judge emphasized that HAVA must be read in the context of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its prohibition on official government action denying the right to vote “because of an error or omission on any record or paper relating to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting, if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under state law to vote in such election.” Court Order at 12.

    The court ultimately concluded that HAVA Checks are intended to assist in improving the quality of voter data in the State’s official voter registration list on an ongoing basis, not to convert an otherwise qualified voter into an ineligible voter.  By enacting and implementing HAVA, neither Congress nor the Legislature has altered the longstanding basic voter eligibility requirements, namely U.S. citizenship, age, and residency, along with an absence of disqualifying factors such as a felony conviction or a finding of incompetency.  The GAB adopted the court’s findings.  Wisconsin Government Accountability Board meeting minutes, Item F, January 15, 2009.  

    Election Day Registration Verification

    Wisconsin election law (Wis. Stat. § 6.56) requires a separate verification process for people who register to vote on Election Day.  

    If you register to vote at the polling place, the Wisconsin Elections Commission will mail an address verification postcard to you after your municipal clerk enters your voter registration into the statewide database. If the post office returns your postcard to the clerk as undeliverable, the clerk must change your record to inactive, and the clerk is required to make a referral to the district attorney’s office for investigation and possible prosecution.
                                                                                                                                                                                 
    According to statistics about the November 2020 election posted on the WEC’s website (https://elections.wi.gov/statistics-data/voting-statistics), there were 6,488 undeliverable postcards and 2,922 voters who have been inactivated because of the postcard being returned. Clerks reported making 373 referrals to district attorneys so far.  After November 2016, there were far more undeliverable postcards and referrals.  There were 10,429 undeliverable postcards and 3,870 voters who were inactivated 954 as a result. Clerks reported making 954 referrals to district attorneys.

    Election Day Registration and Voting Security

    Wisconsin has allowed Election Day registration for many years, and it is extremely popular with voters who need to update their registration after they move or change their names.  It is also secure. 

    To register to vote at the polls on Election Day, a voter must provide:

    • A proof-of-residence document with a current address, such as a driver license, bank statement, tax bill, utility bill or letter from a unit of government.
    • Their driver license or state ID number (or the last four digits of their Social Security number if they don’t have a DMV number). However, there is no requirement or process in state law to verify that DMV data before they vote.  

    To vote on Election Day, all voters must show an acceptable photo ID, including a Wisconsin driver license or state ID card, U.S. Passport, military ID, veterans ID, some student IDs, tribal ID, and certificate of naturalization.  Poll workers are provided samples of acceptable photo IDs, and there has never been a problem with voters presenting fake photo IDs.


     

    There are two big reasons to retain the records of inactive, or ineligible, voters. 

    First and foremost is that the law requires it. 

    The retention of public records is essential to the maintenance of an open and transparent government.   Wisconsin Stat. § 16.61 addresses the retention of records for state agencies, and Wis. Stat. § 19.21 deals with record retention for local government entities.   More specifically, Chapter 6 of the Wisconsin Statutes establishes that registration records may be “eligible” or “ineligible” while not once referencing their destruction.

    Officials with the statutory authority to modify the statewide registration list may change a voter’s registration status from eligible (active) to ineligible (inactive).  Eligible records are registered to vote, appear on pollbooks, and can cast a ballot in statewide elections.  Ineligible records are not registered to vote, do not appear on pollbooks, and cannot cast a ballot in Wisconsin elections.

    The change from eligible to ineligible status is repeatedly referenced in the statutes, including but not limited to:

    • Section 6.36(1)(e) regarding changes to the registration list
    • Section 6.50(2) regarding failure to participate in an election for four years
    • Section 6.50(3) regarding a change in residence
    • Section 6.50(4) regarding deceased voters
    • Section 6.50(5) regarding condemned structures
    • Section 6.50(6) regarding municipal clerk powers
    • Section 6.50(7) regarding recording of ineligibility
    • Section 6.50(10) regarding the right to reregister
    • Section 6.55(2)(cs) regarding loss of voting rights due to a felony conviction
    • Section 6.56(3) regarding voter verification post cards
    • Section 6.56(4) regarding double voting

    Put simply, the law repeatedly states that a voter’s registration status shall be changed from eligible to ineligible.   Wisconsin law does not reference the destruction of voter records.

    The second, but no less important reason to retain ineligible voter records is to safeguard against fraud.

    The retention of voter history does not make it any easier to commit election fraud.  It is no more difficult or easy to change a voter record than it is to create one from scratch.   Instead, the retention of historical data helps to safeguard against abuse of the system.

    If ineligible records were destroyed, the State of Wisconsin would have no voting history.  There would be no registration history, no participation history, and most importantly, no history of why a record became ineligible.  The voter registration database is the means for election officials to track deaths; to track felons; to track people adjudicated incompetent; and to otherwise track any reason for ineligibility.  If ineligible records are destroyed, election officials would lose their only mechanism to verify these conditions.

    Voters who wish to become registered again must re-register and create a new record.  They cannot simply “reactivate” their record and no mechanism exists for voters to do so.  In general, once a record is deactivated, it stays that way.  Only in narrow and well-documented circumstances may an inactive record be re-activated. 

    Finally, it is possible for anyone to independently verify the status of ineligible records and to note any changes to active status.  All voter registration data – active and inactive – is available to the public and hundreds of copies have been produced over the years.  These records allow anyone to view ineligible records and affirm that an inactive record five years ago remains an inactive record today.  If a record has changed its status the retention of historical data allows anyone to learn who changed the status, when it was changed, and typically why it was changed. 

    If inactive records are instead destroyed, Wisconsin’s election history is lost.

    No.  Some people are alleging or implying that routine software updates to voting equipment such as mechanical tabulators will destroy records.  This is incorrect.


    Voting machine data is extremely important to election integrity.  Fortunately, the election results reporting system in Wisconsin is secure, resilient, and redundant.  The implied claim behind these rumors is that external actors accessed voting equipment remotely in order to change results and alter a nationwide election (but not, somehow, state or local races).  Fundamental to the implied threat is the absence of any specific theory proposing a viable path to the end result.  To date, no one has advanced a plausible theory illustrating how the remote electronic manipulation of certain election results in Wisconsin (among over 3,000 reporting units) could overcome municipal, county, and state security measures, circumvent the Canvass process, and avoid detection during reconciliation.


    Each and every ballot cast in Wisconsin is backed by a voter verifiable paper record.  Wisconsin is one of many states that prohibit purely electronic voting and Wisconsin election officials have consistently rejected proposals to introduce such systems to the state.  Altering electronic records is, therefore, meaningless without also altering these individual paper records – one for each voter.  Even if it were possible to alter voting machine data, the bad actor would also have to alter the paper record for every single ballot they wished to change.   These paper records are never held centrally – they are secured amongst the thousands of town, village, city and county clerks in Wisconsin. 


    The electronic results transmitted on election night are unofficial and are but one part of the process.  Official results require many weeks to prepare and undergo scrutiny at the local, county, and state levels.  Statutorily required audit processes validate paper records, such as ballots and voting machine results tapes, by hand and cannot be manipulated by electronic trickery.


    What if electronic records were manipulated, and thousands of paper records were forged?  Would this be sufficient to alter the election results without detection?  No.  Election participation is recorded by poll workers at each polling place both on paper and electronically.  Absentee ballot records are likewise recorded at 1,850 individual cities, towns and villages across Wisconsin – in most cases weeks before the election.  Following every election, local clerks participate in a deliberate reconciliation process to meticulously compare both electronic and paper records to ensure figures match.  This process is monitored by state election officials who help local officials identify and resolve any discrepancies.  When evidence of fraud is detected, state officials can and do refer the cases to County District Attorneys for prosecution.


    Data is not stored on tabulators.  In fact, most tabulators are incapable of network connections.  Only 25 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties use modem-equipped devices to transmit unofficial data wirelessly on election night.  Regardless of whether a tabulator has a modem or not, data isn’t stored on tabulators because they need to be available for the next election.  Clerks are expected to erase tabulator data between elections.  This does not mean that data is destroyed.  Wis. Stat. § 7.23(1)(g) governs data retained on electronic voting systems.  It states:


    "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."  Wis. Stat. § 7.23(1)(g)


    The statute expressly authorizes the erasure of data from tabulating equipment while also stating the mechanism to backup data.  All tabulating equipment used in Wisconsin employs external memory devices and most systems have redundant storage with a second or even a third storage module. This external storage of data allows clerks to easily clear the devices and prepare them for the next use.


    What if the clerk fails to backup the data?  Both tabulators and election management systems used to collect results maintain independent systems recording events on each device.  


    What about device IP logs?  An IP log is generally understood to mean a list of internet protocol addresses that either attempted to connect, or did connect, with a device.  As noted above, most election equipment has no connectivity at all.  Those that do possess specialist equipment to secure and monitor their connections. Any number of devices participating in an internet connection may log (record) information and there is no standard for an “IP log.”  Device firewalls typically retain firewall logs.  The SFTP server may retain logs of connections attempted.  Operating systems maintain their own event logs that track attempts to connect to the device or to manipulate information on the device.  Each of these logs may contain IP address information.  Both tabulators and election management systems maintain logs separate from the election data that clerks may delete.  The hardware and software employed varies by manufacturer.  


    Will software updates erase device logs?  No.  System updates are no more likely to erase election equipment data than the latest Windows update is likely to erase all the information on your computer.  Software updates are a normal and a necessary part of technology that increase the security of machines used to administer elections.  These software updates are offered by the manufacturer and Wisconsin towns, cities, villages and counties may elect to accept or decline the updates as they see fit.