Extending the Government Accountability Board’s Operating Hours for the 2010 Spring Election Cycle: An Interim Report



An Analysis of Local Election Officials’ Requests for Agency Extended Operating Hours for the 2010 Spring Elections

Executive Summary

The Government Accountability Board provides service and support to the over 3.5 million registered voters living in 1,851 towns, villages and cities and the 1,923 local election officials who conduct elections in Wisconsin at over 2,700 polling places in 3,600 wards/reporting units. During any election cycle, the demand for the Board’s services grows sufficiently to justify additional hours of operation in order to meet the needs of clerks and the voting public.

In previous years, the Board provided extended hours of operation based on prior levels of demand for services during similar elections. Section 7.08 (11), Wisconsin Statutes, which was created by 2009 Wisconsin Act 28, enacted on June 29, 2009, codified the Board’s practice of extending hours of operation in preparation before, during and after elections, or in the event of a recount and explicitly specifies the Board’s responsibility to be available to answer inquiries from clerks and the voting public during these times. In response to the creation of Section 7.08 (11), Wisconsin Statutes, the Board determined that a more systematic and evidence-based approach should be used to decide what extended hours of operation to employ.

The Board staff developed an online survey and made it available on January 15, 2010 to the 1,738 County and Municipal Clerks who receive email notifications. The Board also mailed a paper copy of the survey to the 185 clerks who lacked email accounts. The responses to this survey provided objective data on which the Board based a decision on extended operating hours for the 2010 Election Cycle in order to meet its obligation to Section 7.08 (11), Wisconsin Statutes.

This report describes the survey and clerks’ responses, the extended hour plans employed by the Board based on those responses, and an analysis of the effectiveness of those hours in providing clerks with more flexibility for submitting inquiries and collaborating with Board staff.

There are several key findings from this report on extended operating hours:

  1. A majority of clerks supported the Government Accountability Board employing extended hours before and on Election Day while a sizeable minority of clerks also supported weekend and post-election extended hours.
  2. No one-size-fits-all extended hours plan should be implemented for each election as clerks’ needs for collaboration with Board staff depends on the type and expected turnout of an election. For example, clerks clearly desire more extended hours for the November 2, 2010, General Election than the February 16, 2010, Spring Primary or the April 6, 2010, Spring Election.
  3. Clerks desire greater Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) support before an election and greater Election Administration support on Election Day. These responses were corroborated by the Election Activity Logs which showed that the primary line of inquiry before an election was the printing of poll books which is SVRS-related and that on Election Day, (i.e. voters at the wrong polling place, signs or buttons that upset other voters, Election Day registration confusion), Election Administration issues.
  4. Extending hours to provide more support to clerks and the voting public during lower turnout elections, like the 2010 February 16 Primary and April 6 Spring Election was able to be done with a nominal fiscal impact by modifying staff members’ schedules in order to avoid overtime expenditures. The net increased staff cost for extended operation hours for the 2010 Spring Election Cycle was only $23.85! This nominal cost may not be able to be sustained for the all elections, and is not expected to be maintained during the Fall Election Cycle when more extensive extended hours are expected to be employed.

The full report is attached below.