Thursday, February 2, 2023

CCWI Supports Clear Rules for Election Observers

For release: Thursday - February 2, 2023

Statement from Common Cause Wisconsin on Election Observation Guidelines for the WEC February 2, 2023 meeting

TO: Members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission and Staff

FROM: Jay Heck, Executive Director of Common Cause in Wisconsin

DATE: February 1, 2023 (statement sent)

RE: Statement from Common Cause Wisconsin on Election Observation Guidelines for the WEC February 2, 2023 meeting

Dear Chair Millis, Members of the Commission, and staff,

Common Cause Wisconsin (CC/WI) welcomes this opportunity to comment on the need for the establishment of clear rules and standards for election observers. Founded in 1970, CC/WI is the state’s largest non-partisan citizens political reform advocacy organization with more than 8,000 members and activists in every county and corner of Wisconsin.

Common Cause Wisconsin has recruited volunteer observers over many years and for several election cycles to be able to have our members observe and monitor the election process at polling locations throughout the state. Members of Common Cause Wisconsin have long been eager to have an opportunity to be part of the Wisconsin Election Protection programs in many different capacities, but they have particularly emphasized the value and importance of being trained as election observers by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin for Election Day. It has been brought to our attention that election observers need clear rules in order to carry out their tasks at polling locations. Clear rules from the Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) will help protect voting rights, help observers be able to better cooperate with election officials, and for the benefit of the observers themselves while also preserving and enhancing access to the election process and to help improve transparency, security, and confidence in Wisconsin’s elections.

Common Cause Wisconsin strongly supports establishing clear rules and standards for observers at the state’s thousands of polling places. But there needs to be a balance between an observer’s access and ability to be able to view the voting process and a voter's right to confidentiality and privacy. Election clerks and other election workers need to know they are supported by a clear set of rules and will not have to endure the threat of intimidation or attack by observers who do not follow those rules. Voters need to know that their vote is private and confidential and that they will not face verbal or physical intimidation of any type when they are voting. Voter confidence in the process and public confidence in our elections will increase only when there are clear standards that protect the rights of voters (such as their privacy while filling out their ballot), ensure reasonable access for observers, and protect election workers.

It is necessary to have rules that ensure that the basic needs of election observers are being met, such as access to restrooms, access to the voting process without interfering with election officials and voters, and receiving disability-related accommodations. Official publicized rules can help establish protections by offering a clear roadmap for clerks and chief inspectors running polling places throughout the state.

In preparing election observer rules, WEC should carefully weigh and consider the required, necessary balance between an election observer’s access to the process with the protection of every voter’s right to cast a ballot in private and without fear of intimidation. Election observers should be able to view the full election process (i.e. observing the election officials, watching voters announce who they are, etc.) so the process is transparent to the public; while the activities of election observers should not be in any way threatening or act as a detriment to voters. Rules should make it clear that observers must be respectful of every voter’s right to privacy and to be free of intimidation and interference.

Observers and election officials rely on clear guidance from the WEC. Common Cause Wisconsin supports these guidelines being reviewed by an advisory committee and moved into a set of clear rules. Establishing clear rules and standards for election observers will help improve citizen confidence in the voting process and help our democracy to thrive and flourish.

Thank you.


Jay Heck
608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 Johnson St, Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703

No comments: