Working the Polls

An election official is defined as “an individual who is charged with any duties relating to the conduct of an election.” Wis. Stat. § 5.02(4e). This includes chief inspectors, elections inspectors, greeters, tabulators, and high school poll workers. As election officials, poll workers perform a very important public service by enhancing the high quality and integrity of Wisconsin's elections.

Poll Worker Qualification Requirements

    Wis. Stat. §7.30(2)(a) indicates a preference for the Chief Inspector to be a resident of the municipality where they will serve, but offers an exception: “…each chief inspector shall be a qualified elector of the municipality in which the chief inspector serves. If no qualified candidate for chief inspector is available…the person so appointed need not be a qualified elector of the municipality…”

    The municipal clerk chooses the chief inspector, but the statute confines the selection to municipal residents unless no qualified municipal resident is available.

    1. They must be nominated. Once nominated, it is up to the governing body to appoint the inspectors to a two-year term. Election inspector terms run from January 1 of an even-numbered year through December 31 of the subsequent odd-numbered year. Wis. Stat. § 7.31 (4).

    2. Inspectors must be able to read, write and understand the English language.

    3. Inspectors are required to receive training from the municipal clerk within the two years preceding the election event at which the inspector intends to work.

    4. An inspector may not be a candidate for any office to be voted on at an election at which they serve. Wis. Stat. § 7.30 (2)(a).

    5. Election inspectors must be qualified electors of the county served by the polling place in which they work.

    6. The municipal clerk should identify any election inspectors appointed by one of the two major political parties. The chief inspector must ensure that any Election Day tasks which require completion by two election inspectors are represented by each party, whenever possible. Wis. Stat. § 7.30 (2)(a).

    Special note regarding election inspector appointments: It is the opinion of the Commission that election inspectors may not serve at elections where they, their spouse, or immediate family member is a candidate on the ballot or under other circumstances where a candidate’s success or failure to win election would affect the election inspector financially

    Students qualify to serve as election inspectors if they:

    1. Are 16 or 17 years of age

    2. Are enrolled in grades 9 to 12 in a public, private or tribal school or a home-based private educational program.  

    3. Have at least a 3.0 grade point average or the equivalent.

    4. Have the written approval of their parent or guardian.

    5. Have the written approval of the principal of the school in which they are enrolled, if the student has less than a 3.0 grade point average.

    6. Reside in the municipality.

    Students may serve only at polling places that serve their residence.

    Poll Worker FAQ

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      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.