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.

    If an absentee ballot is unfolded, that means the voter cast an absentee ballot in the clerk’s office on a piece of voting equipment known as the ES&S ExpressVote. The ExpressVote is a touch-screen ballot marking device (BMD) which prints the voter’s choices on a smaller paper ballot which does not need to be folded. ExpressVote ballots can be counted using the ES&S DS200 precinct scanner, just like regular sized paper ballots. ExpressVote BMDs are also used by people with disabilities to vote in person at polling places.

    The clerk or deputy clerk is required to initial the absentee ballot before issuing it to the voter, so it is natural that many of them all have the same set of initials. More info about initials in this FAQ.

    What are the positions at a polling place?

    There are four different positions that help conduct elections at a polling place.

    1. A poll worker, or election inspector, is someone who conducts duties at a polling place on Election Day. The poll worker can issue ballots to registered voters, registering voters, monitor the voting equipment, explain how to mark the ballot or use the voting equipment, and count votes. There are typically 3 to 7 election inspectors at a polling place with 1 chief inspector. There must always be an odd number of election inspectors.
    2. Each polling place is allowed up to one greeter. The greeter assists with answering questions and directing voters to the voting area. A greeter may become an election inspector on election day if there is an even number of poll workers to maintain an odd number.
    3. The municipal clerk or board of election commissioners may assign an election registration official (ERO) to a polling place to register voters. EROs do not count toward the number of election inspectors at a polling place.
    4. Lastly, the governing body or board of election commissioners of a municipality may pass a resolution to employ tabulators in an election. Tabulators assist at the polling place after it closes.

    What are the essential functions of becoming a poll worker?

    Under Wis. Stat. s. 7.30(2), election inspectors must be able to read and write the English language, be capable, and be of good understanding. However, there are many different duties that an individual can conduct at the polling place that do not require the ability to read or write the English language. These could include being a greeter, monitoring the voting equipment, or issuing ballots to registered voters.

    How do I get an accommodation to become a poll worker?

    Under ADA, all poll workers, including greeters and tabulators, are entitled to receive a reasonable accommodation to perform the essential functions of the job if the accommodation does not create an undue hardship to the employer.  Therefore, many municipalities may be able to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals to become a poll worker. However, not every position may be able to be performed by every individual, so a reasonable accommodation could be reassignment to a different position.

    To get a reasonable accommodation, contact your municipal clerk. You may also contact the Wisconsin Elections Commission with any questions.

    What are examples of accommodations that are generally reasonable at a polling place?

    • Assignment to be a greeter.
    • Assignment to a specific task.
    • Providing a translator.
    • Providing an aid to assist with assigned tasks.
    • Providing extra breaks.
    • Allowing flexible work hours.
    • Providing equipment to improve accessibility, such as a chair or magnifying glass.


    An accommodation would not be reasonable if the individual is unable to perform the essential functions of the job or if the accommodation causes undue hardship for the municipality. These determinations are decided by each municipality, but the Wisconsin Elections Commission can work with a clerk to identify accommodation options or eliminate barriers to providing an accommodation.

    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#

    Wisconsin law requires every employer to grant an unpaid leave of absence to each employee who is appointed to serve as an election official, if the employee who serves as an election official provides his or her employer with at least seven days' notice.  The leave is for the entire 24-hour period of each election day in which the employee serves in his or her official capacity as an election official.   Upon request of any employer municipal clerks must verify appointments.

    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

    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

    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.