With less than two months remaining prior to the 2018 General Election, we wish to provide you with some brief updates and reminders regarding early preparations at both the state and local levels.
1. WEC Meeting
The Wisconsin Elections Commission will hold its last regular meeting prior to the General Election on Tuesday, September 25, 2018, beginning at 10:00 a.m. in Room 413 North, GAR Hall, in the State Capitol. A full agenda and meeting packet will be posted on the agency’s website in the second half of next week, but the agenda includes several items that local election officials may be specifically interested in.
1) The Commission will determine its guidance regarding whether the ERIC supplemental list will continue to be used at the General Election.
2) The Commission will discuss the future use of remaining election security funds and consider any input provided by local election officials and the public for the best use of those federal funds going forward.
3) The Commission will discuss the procedures for the post-election voting equipment audit as well as any voluntary ballot audits conducted by county boards of canvassers.
4) The Commission will discuss whether the statutory category of bank statements as acceptable forms of proof of residence for voter registration should include a mortgage statement or a credit card statement.
The Commission meeting is open to the public and input from the public and clerks will be heard during the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting. Written comments may also be submitted either at the meeting or by sending them to our Help Desk at email@example.com.
2. Election Security Videos
If you and your staff have not yet viewed the series of brief election security videos created by WEC staff, we recommend that you view them as soon as possible. Viewing the videos and electronically signing the updated WisVote User and Confidentiality Agreements are conditions of continued access to WisVote and the videos are helpful even for clerks or staff who are not WisVote users. The videos provide basic information about cybersecurity topics (for example, password security and detecting spear phishing attacks) and are an excellent resource to elevate the foundation of cybersecurity awareness among Wisconsin election officials.
More information regarding the security videos and WisVote Access Policy can be found in the Clerk Communication at this link: https://elections.wi.gov/node/5949
3. Voter Turnout Projections
Because ballots are currently being printed, we are providing an early reminder to consider your anticipated voter turnout. While voter turnout may vary considerably throughout the state based upon local circumstances and contests, early indications are that the statewide voter turnout will likely be higher than past gubernatorial election years. Based on our staff’s discussions with political scientists, you may want to look at the number of ballots cast in your jurisdiction in the 2014 General Election (which was a record statewide) and plan for slightly more voters.
Another way to approach the question of how many ballots to order is to look at your number of registered voters. The Brennan Center recently recommended that election officials print a sufficient number of ballots to accommodate 100 percent of the total registered voters. We understand there is a balance between guarding against running out of ballots on Election Day and printing and paying for an excess of ballots that may not be used. Running out of ballots on Election Day creates complications and inconveniences for voters and election officials, and we urge you to carefully consider all available information, such as voter registration and absentee voting trends in your community, as you decide how many ballots to print.
In addition, please remember that the WEC calculates voter turnout based upon the Voting Age Population as determined by the U.S. Census Bureau, while some clerks discuss local turnout based upon the number of registered voters at a certain point in time. The WEC’s method of calculating turnout allows for comparisons over time and across states, and also avoids issues created by using a constantly changing total of registered voters. If you choose to make voter turnout projections based on the number of registered voters, it would be helpful if you would educate your local media about the different calculation methods and that comparing local turnout to the WEC’s calculations is not a valid comparison.
4. Voting Equipment Public Tests
Municipal clerks are responsible for conducting the public test of voting equipment to be used at any election. The test may not be conducted earlier than 10 days before Election Day, and public notice of the time and location of the testing shall be published at least 48 hours in advance. Wis. Stat. s. 5.84. Occasionally the Commission receives complaints that either a public test has not been completed or that proper notice has not been published. In preparing for Election Day, remember to schedule the voting equipment public test and to publish the notice in a timely manner. See page 147 of the Election Administration Manual for more information regarding the public test.
5. Contingency Plans
Remember to review and update your local contingency plans in the context of Election Day and in-person absentee voting. Confirm current contact information for local officials and key staff, outline procedures to respond to various polling place or system disruptions and develop communication plans in advance. It is also important to practice implementing contingency plans, or at least to conduct coordination meetings to prepare for and respond to various incidents and developments.
Consider including in your coordination meeting the officials and staff who might be involved on short notice on Election Day, such as chief election inspectors, representatives or heads of law enforcement, public works and maintenance, local or regional emergency management, legal counsel, public information officers, and your jurisdiction’s chief elected official. Develop collective strategies to implement in response to various election-related scenarios, such as a traffic accident blocking access to a polling place, an electric power or WisVote outage, a disruptive voter or observer at the polls, or misinformation distributed through social media. Remind your municipal attorneys that the municipality is responsible for initiating court action in the event it is necessary to seek approval to extend voting hours. Talking through scenarios in advance is useful not only to prepare for specific situations but to develop the reflexes necessary for sound decision making and responses.
We hope these reminders are helpful to your planning for the November 2018 General Election. If you have any questions regarding these topics, please contact the Help Desk at 608-261-2028 or firstname.lastname@example.org.