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.  

    The number of active registered voters fluctuates as people register or as they are moved from the active list to the inactive list by their municipal clerks, ranging between 3.4 million to 3.7 million.  As of August 2021, there are 3.5 million active registered voters. Only active registered voters appear on the poll book and are eligible to receive a ballot, either in-person or by absentee ballot.

    In addition to the active registered list, there is an inactive list with about 3.6 million voters. People are made inactive (ineligible) when they die, move and register in another state, are convicted of a felony, are adjudicated incompetent to vote, or are made inactive through statutory voter list maintenance processes (aka “purging). If you’re on the list as inactive, that means you’re not eligible to vote unless you reregister to vote, which includes providing a proof-of-residence document that establishes where you live in Wisconsin (and where you vote).

    Wisconsin keeps track of its voters in a statewide voter registration database.  The database system is provided and maintained by the Wisconsin Elections Commission, and the voter records are managed by the state’s 1,849 municipal clerks.  The entire number of people in the statewide voter registration database is 7.1 million which includes 3.6 million inactive voters

    Why don’t you just delete the inactive voters?

    Wisconsin law requires that there be an active and an inactive voter list. There are several reasons for doing this. First, it’s a historical public record, and cannot be deleted. But primarily, it allows your voter history to follow you when you move and reregister, even if there is a gap because you move out of Wisconsin for a few years and then return and register again. Also, if someone is dead and if the clerk gets a registration form for that person, the clerk would see that the person is deceased and would not register them.

    Is the voter list bigger than Wisconsin’s adult population?

    No. For 2020, the Census estimated there are 4.5 million adults in Wisconsin, and there are 3.5 million active registered voters. The Census numbers will be updated once the actual population figures are released later in 2021.


    Voter Registration and List Maintenance Facts


    • Wisconsin has a voting-age population of 4,536,293 people, according to estimates by the state’s Demographic Services Center.
    • Of those, 3,535,850 people were actively registered to vote on August 1, 2021.
    • State law requires the Elections Commission to conduct voter list maintenance every two years after each General Election.  The procedure is to identify people who are registered but have not voted in the past four years, contact them by mail, and deactivate them if they do not respond or do not wish to remain registered.
    • The number of postcards mailed every two years varies greatly, depending on whether it follows an election for president or for governor.  In 2019, the state mailed approximately 113,000 postcards to voters, compared to approximately 381,000 postcards in 2017.
    • Congress exempted Wisconsin from the National Voter Registration Act (Motor Voter law) in 1993 because Wisconsin has Election Day Registration.  Motor Voter has certain restrictions on list maintenance that do not apply to Wisconsin.
    • Wisconsin has had a statewide voter registration list since 2006.  
    • The Elections Commission works closely with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections to identify and remove voters who have died or been convicted of a felony. 
    • In 2016, Wisconsin joined the multi-state Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), which provides the state with additional tools to identify voters who may have moved or died out of state.

    No.  Wisconsin State Statute 7.10 explicitly gives the responsibility of preparing, printing, and distributing ballots to county clerks, based on templates developed and approved by the Wisconsin Elections Commission for each election cycle.  

    Ballot templates are approved by the Commission at a public meeting, which gives the public, political parties and elected officials an opportunity to provide feedback in advance.  Once approved, ballot templates must be used by county clerks to create the ballots for each municipality.  County clerks provide those ballot designs to WEC staff for an additional review, and only slight variations from the template are allowed.
    County clerks design and lay out ballots in conjunction with the programming of electronic voting equipment.  Many county clerks do this work in their offices with their own staff and computers. Others have contractual relationships with voting equipment vendors to provide these services.
    County clerks are also responsible for arranging for the printing all the ballots for their municipalities.  Some clerks print ballots in-house, while others use vendors who specialize in ballot printing.  Once printed, county clerks are also responsible for delivering ballots to the municipal clerks by deadlines established in state statutes so they can be mailed to absentee voters.  

    Attached is a document that explains in greater details the process flow for how ballots are designed and printed in Wisconsin.  

    No, Wisconsin’s Badger Books epollbook system is not connected to the internet.  The Wisconsin Elections Commission, which created the software for Badger Books, designed the system with cybersecurity as a top priority.

    Badger Books are an electronic poll book system available to Wisconsin’s municipal clerks who wish to use it in their jurisdictions.  WEC provides the software to municipalities at no cost, but the municipality must purchase computer hardware used to run the system.  

    Badger Books never touch the internet, which is in accordance with the Commission’s directive outlining the creation and implementation of an electronic poll book program.  

    In polling places where there is more than one Badger Book station, the devices do connect to each other to update the electronic poll list.  The network they use to communicate is either via an encrypted wireless router or a hardwired ethernet cable through a secure router that is not connected to the Internet.  All guidance and training provided to the municipalities by WEC staff stress the importance of this lack of external connectivity. 

    The voter list for each municipality that uses Badger Books is generated and downloaded by the municipal clerk (or their staff) prior to an election from Wisconsin’s statewide voter database. This poll book detail file is loaded onto an encrypted USB device, which is then inserted into the Badger Book at the polling place to load the details necessary to administer the election. In other words, it is securely transferred by physical means to the device only when needed, and it never reaches the internet or is part of any virtual transfer process. Following the election, the data is taken from the Badger Book, loaded onto a USB device, and uploaded back into the statewide voter database. This data includes voter participation, Election Day Registration information, etc. These are the only two steps during which the internet is used at all and, as they are happening on the clerk office’s computer and accessible only to authorized users of the statewide voter system, there should be no internet-related agita geared toward the Badger Book devices themselves. The data is only being uploaded from/to that device via the security of the clerk’s system account.

    WEC is currently seeking proposals from computer hardware vendors to provide devices and hardware support that municipal clerks can purchase to run Badger Books.  The security protocols, training, and guidance offered to the clerks will remain intact despite the potential for a change in equipment or suppliers.  Again, the RFP is only meant to possibly update the hardware being used, provide a vehicle for purchasing hardware and hardware support, and to encourage municipal use of Badger Books.  It will not fundamentally alter anything about the Badger Books solution or processes.

    State law does not authorize or require signature comparison as a part of the voting process or during any post-election recount or audit.  Instead, for security purposes, Wisconsin requires most absentee voters to show or provide a copy of their photo ID when requesting a ballot.

    As a part of the absentee ballot counting process, every absentee certificate envelope is checked to ensure the voter and witness signed the certificate.  However, nothing in Wisconsin law establishes a process for comparing those signatures, as there is not necessarily any original signature for them to be compared with.  Signature matching is a specialized field, and Wisconsin election officials have received no training or certification in signature matching.  For those reasons, conducting an audit of absentee voters’ signatures would be impractical and unwarranted.

    Clerks are not required by state law to contact voters who submit absentee ballots with signatures or addresses missing from the certificate, but the WEC and its predecessor agencies have long advised clerks to attempt to contact voters to correct these kinds of problems if they can before the election.

    In 2016, the Wisconsin Legislature passed a law stating: “If a certificate is missing the address of a witness, the ballot may not be counted.” 

    After the law passed, many people became concerned that some voters were not aware of the requirement for a complete witness address. In October 2016, the WEC voted to advise clerks they could fix missing witness address components based on “reliable information.”  The motion to approve the guidance was made and seconded by Republican members of the Commission and it passed unanimously. Ultimately, there must be a witness address on the certificate in order for the ballot to be counted.  

    The guidance had been in effect for 11 statewide elections, including the 2016 presidential and presidential recount, and no one objected to it until just before the November 2020 election.

    The guidance was designed to ensure that voters would not be penalized if witnesses left off an element of their address, like the city. When the WEC communicated with clerks about the issue of how to handle absentee certificates with missing address information, it was simply reiterating its longstanding guidance.

    Municipal clerks deliver all ballots, statements, tally sheets, lists and envelopes, excluding any absentee ballots received after closing hour on election night and any provisional ballots, related to any county, school district or special purpose district election to the appropriate clerks by 4:00 p.m. on the day following each such election. The municipal clerk shall deliver to the county clerk any additional provisional and absentee ballots canvassed late together with amended statements, tally sheets, lists, and envelopes no later than 4 p.m. on the Monday following the election.  Wis. Stat. § 7.51(5)(b).

    Election inspectors are not required under 2011 Wisconsin Act 23 to compare the signature to any other record.  Voters should be directed to sign using their normal signature as they would sign any other official document and election inspectors should indicate the line number on which the voter is to sign.  The law does not require voter signatures to be legible. 

    If the voter refuses to sign the poll list, a ballot shall not be issued. 

    However, electors who have a disability that prevents them from physically being able to sign the poll list are exempt from this provision.  If another person signed the voter’s registration form because the voter was unable to sign due to disability, the election inspector writes the word “exempt” on the signature line.  If the voter is already registered but the voter claims to be unable to sign due to physical disability, and both inspectors concur, the inspectors shall enter the words “exempt by order of inspectors” on the signature line.  If both inspectors do not waive the signature requirement, the voter shall be allowed to cast a ballot and the inspector or inspectors who did not waive the requirement shall challenge the ballot.

    University and college students may use their student photo ID in conjunction with a fee payment receipt that contains the student’s residential address dated no earlier than nine months before the election.  University and college students may also use their student photo ID if the university or college has provided a certified list to the municipal clerk of students, containing the students’ residential addresses and indicating which students are U.S. citizens.

    The progression is as follows:

    Voter who possesses a WI driver license or WI DOT issued ID:

    •    If it is current and valid (not revoked, suspended or expired)

    o        Voter must provide the license number
    o        If they cannot or won’t provide the number, they can register and vote provisionally

    •    If driver license is revoked, suspended or expired 

    o        Voter must provide the last 4 digits of their Social Security number (SS#)
    o        They may also provide the number on their license or ID (optional)

    Voter who does not possess a WI driver license

    •    Voter must provide the last 4 digits of their SS#

    o        If the voter cannot provide the last 4 digits of their SS#, they may not register or vote

    Voter who possesses neither a WI driver license nor a state ID nor an SS#

    •    Checks in the box indicating they have no WI driver license/state ID nor SS#

    The Wisconsin Elections Commission has published two recall manuals (for Congressional, County, and State Officials; for Local Officials) explaining the process of recalling an elected official. Please consult these publications for answers about how to initiate a recall, deadlines for recall petitions to be circulated, and timelines for review and scheduling of recall elections.


    If a municipality has only three election inspectors available to work at an election, and all represent the same political party, does it matter during a nonpartisan election?

    The type of election is not the issue.  If lists of election inspector nominees are provided by the county parties, and appointments are made with regard to political affiliation, one of the inspectors will have to agree to represent the other party at that election.

    Any municipality may, by resolution, reduce the number of election officials to no less than three.  S. 7.32, Wis. Stats.  Rather than create a resolution prior to each election, a resolution may be worded so that the municipal clerk is able to make the decision with respect to number of inspectors to be used at a particular election.  S. 7.32, Wis. Stats.

    Remember:  If a polling place utilizes only three inspectors, and one inspector must leave the voting area, voting stops until the inspector returns.  The clerk may want to provide for an alternate who can replace inspectors for lunch or other breaks.  A municipal ordinance that provides for the use of alternate inspectors is required.  S. 7.30(1), Wis. Stats.  2/11/2003

    To be an election inspector (poll worker), a person must:

    • Be a qualified elector of the county in which the polling place is established  (i.e., an adult citizen of the United States who has resided in the election district for 28 consecutive days and is not otherwise disqualified to vote);
    • Be able to speak, read, and write fluently in the English language;
    • Have strong clerical skills;
    • Be able to solve problems;
    • Be an effective communicator; and
    • NOT be a candidate for any office to be voted on at the polling place at that election.

    Municipal clerks are required by state law to provide training. This training provides all of the necessary information and knowledge to be a successful poll worker.  (Many municipalities require poll workers to attend a comprehensive training course prior to each Primary election.)  

    An experienced chief inspector who has been certified by the State Elections Board must be present at each polling place for each election.   Chief inspectors must receive six hours of continuing election education training during each two-year period.

    Election Inspectors (poll workers) conduct assigned duties at a polling site on Election Day.  Duties can include issuing ballots to registered voters, registering voters, monitoring the voting equipment, explaining how to mark the ballot or use the voting equipment or counting votes.

    The chief inspector is in charge of keeping order at the polling place.  If a person is interfering with the orderly conduct of the election, the chief inspector may ask that person to leave the polling place.  If the person refuses, the inspectors may seek assistance from the municipal clerk.  If the municipal clerk cannot be contacted, or if the person refuses an order by the municipal clerk, law enforcement may be called.  3/24/2003

    On election day, the polling place is under the control of the election inspectors.  The clerk is an election administrator and has other duties on election day outside of the polling place.  Therefore, the Government Accountability Board does not advise that a municipal clerk serve as an election inspector.  If the municipal clerk must serve as an inspector, he or she must be appointed an an inspector and may not be a candidate at the election.  3/24/2003

    The municipal clerk is an election administrator and, as such, should be available to the election inspectors on election day for advice, supplies, etc.  In addition, there are circumstances where a hospitalized elector or sequestered juror may request an absentee ballot from the clerk on election day.  Therefore, if the clerk is unable to be available on election day, a deputy should be appointed to act in the clerk's absence.  3/24/2003

    When there are municipal offices or referenda on the ballot: 

    One option is for at least three inspectors (preferably all inspectors ) to accompany the ballots to the central count.  When the municipality's ballots are counted, the inspectors sign the municipal board of canvassers statement, and deliver the completed document to the municipal clerk. 

    The second option is for the clerk* or two inspectors to deliver the ballots to the central count.  At least three inspectors (preferably all inspectors) acting as the municipal board of canvassers meet the following morning to sign the municipal canvass, which includes the tabular statement, summary and certification. 

    When there are no municipal offices or referenda on the ballot: 

    Either two election inspectors or the municipal clerk* deliver the ballots to the central count location. 

    *It’s a good idea for the municipal clerk not to deliver ballots to the central count if the clerk is a candidate at the election.

    5.85(5), 7.51, and 7.53, Wis. Stats.

    The presence of a candidate at a location where ballots are given to voters may give the appearance of electioneering. During hours when ballots may be cast, Wis. Stat. § 12.03 prohibits electioneering at polling places, in-person absentee voting sites, and locations where special voting deputies are present. It also prevents electioneering on public property within 100 feet of an entrance to one of these locations. Electioneering is defined by the statute as “any activity which is intended to influence voting at an election.” Additionally, while most individuals may observe voting at polling places and in-person absentee voting sites, any candidate whose name appears on a ballot at one of those locations is not extended that right under Wis. Stat. § 7.41(1). For these reasons, the Wisconsin Elections Commission recommends that a candidate only be present at one of these locations in order to vote, and to leave as soon as the candidate has finished voting. 

    The County Board of Canvassers, the Municipal Board of Canvassers, and the School District Board of Canvassers always consist of 3 persons:  Boards of Canvassers are comprised as follows:

    • County Board of Canvassers:  The County Clerk and two qualified electors of the county appointed by the clerk. 

    • School District Board of Canvassers:  The School District Clerk and 2 qualified electors of the school district appointed by the clerk.

    • Municipal Board of Canvassers:  If the municipality has one ward or one set of results, the canvass shall be conducted publicly, and the election inspectors shall act as the municipal board of canvassers. Ss. 5.15(6)(b), 7.51, and 7.53(1), Wis. Stats. A separate board of canvassers, comprised of the municipal clerk and 2 other qualified electors appointed by the clerk, is required when the municipality has more than 1 reporting unit or more than 1 set of results.  The municipal board of canvassers must start the municipal canvass by 9am the Monday following the election. Wis. Stat. §7.53.

    If the municipality has one ward or one set of results, the canvass shall be conducted publicly, and the election inspectors shall act as the municipal board of canvassers. Ss. 5.15(6)(b), 7.51, and 7.53(1), Wis. Stats.

    A separate board of canvassers, comprised of the municipal clerk and two other qualified electors appointed by the clerk, is required when the municipality has more than one reporting unit or more than one set of results.  The municipal board of canvassers must start the municipal canvass by 9am the Monday following the election. Wis. Stat. §7.53.

    In a nonpartisan (Spring) election, the order in which candidates names appear on the ballot is determined by the drawing of lots, or by any method that is by chance.  S. 5.60(1)(b), Wis. Stats.  3/24/2003

    In a partisan primary, the order in which candidates of one party's names appear is also determined by lot.

    At a partisan General Election (such as for Governor or President) the ballot order is determined by which political party's candidate received the most votes at the last General Election. For example, Governor Walker received the most votes in the 2010 General Election, so Republican candidates were first on the 2012 General Election ballot. In 2012, President Obama received the most votes, so Democratic candidates are first on the 2014 General Election ballot.

    The ballot order for independent candidates is determined by lot.

    Once a candidate qualifies for ballot status, her name appears on the ballot. The candidate cannot withdraw and have her name removed. Only in case of death of the candidate can the name be removed from the ballot. S. 8.35, Wis. Stats.

    The candidate can make a statement to notice the electors that she no longer wishes to seek the office by election, but her name will appear on the ballot. Should the candidate win the election, she may decline to hold the office. This creates a vacancy that is filled following the provisions of Ch. 17.  3/12/2003

    Yes.  A Power of Attorney can request an absentee ballot for an elector.  No person (not even a POA) may "vote" a ballot for another elector.  If the elector requires assistance in completing the ballot, the elector may designate another person to assist the elector in marking the ballot.*  In the presence of the elector, the ballot is marked according to the elector's direction.  The assisting elector must sign their name on the ballot under the section entitled "Signature of Assisting Individual."

    *The assisting elector cannot be the elector's employer or an agent of that employer or an officer or agent of a labor organization which represents the elector.  S. 6.82(2)(a), Wis. Stats.  3/12/2003

    Yes. Along with meeting all the usual requirements, voters who vote by absentee ballot must follow special rules in completing and signing the certificate on the ballot envelope, and having the certificate witnessed.

    If any of these rules aren't followed, election officials at the polling place must reject the absentee ballot.  These rules replace the safeguards normally present when a voter appears in person at the polling place.

    If the request is made by mail by a regular voter, it must be in the office of the municipal clerk no later than 5:00 p.m. on the Thursday preceding an election. 

    If the request is a calendar year request, it can be made until 5:00 p.m. on the Friday preceding the election.

    If the request is made in-person, the deadline is the last day that the clerk is offering in-person absentee voting.

    Special provisions are made for hospitalized electors and sequestered jurors to request and vote by absentee ballot on election day.

    The absentee ballot request is made to the municipal clerk in writing using the Application For Absentee Ballot (EL-121) or by letter or email to your municipal clerk requesting an absentee ballot which provides substantially the same information required on the application form.


    You can find your municipal clerk on the MyVote Wisconsin website: myvote.wi.gov by searching for your voter record or performing an address search.


    You will need to provide a copy of your acceptable photo ID with your absentee ballot request.More information about the photo ID requirement can be found at www.bringit.wi.gov.


    Any qualified elector who registers to vote. (A qualified elector is a United States citizen, 18 years of age or older, who has resided in the district in which he or she intends to vote for at least 28 days.)