Friday, April 26, 2024

Witnessing the Election Process

For release: Friday - April 26, 2024

Image: Voters in a polling place: WTMJ 4 News photo

Common Cause Wisconsin weighs in on the Role of the Election Observer

This week the Wisconsin Elections Commission held a public hearing for comments about their draft administrative rule on election observation. Common Cause Wisconsin submitted this statement in support of a rule that will provide clarity and uniformity for election observers to witness the election process while allowing election officials to complete their duties transparently and unobstructed and voters to cast their ballots privately and with confidence. You can see TMJ4 News coverage here and read the Common Cause statement below.

Jay Heck, Executive Director, Common Cause Wisconsin

TO: Legislative Members of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules, Wisconsin Elections Commissioners and Staff

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

DATE: April 24, 2024

RE: Statement from Common Cause Wisconsin on Wisconsin Election Commission Rule on Election Observer, Rule EL 4

Common Cause Wisconsin (CC/WI) supports the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) Draft Election Observer, Rule EL 4, which establishes much needed 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 in 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 CC/WI 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 nonpartisan election observers by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin for Election Day.

Common Cause Wisconsin was an active participating member of the WEC Election Observer Advisory Committee to assist with the development of the draft rule. It is the position of CC/WI that election observers need clear rules in order to carry out their tasks at polling locations, and the legislative approval of the Draft Election Observer Rule EL 4 will help protect voting rights while informing observers to be able to better cooperate with election officials. The rule seeks to benefit observers but will also preserve and enhance access to the election process, and help improve transparency, security, and confidence in Wisconsin’s elections.

Common Cause Wisconsin supports Draft Election Observer Rule EL 4 in establishing clear rules and standards for observers at the state’s thousands of polling places. The rule strikes a careful and important balance between the election officials being able to carry out their jobs, an observer’s access and ability to be able to view the voting process, and a voter's right to privacy and confidentiality while casting a ballot.

The rule is also comprehensive and responsive to the many points of concern members of the advisory committee named specifically at the meetings. These areas include the use of recording equipment, how observers can interact with voters and election officials while in the polling place, respecting a voter’s right to privacy and the handling of confidential information, an observer’s role when working with Special Voting Deputies, the safety and authority of election officials and chief inspectors, and maintaining an open and transparent process that is observable. The rule ensures the basic needs of election observers are met, such as access to restrooms, access to the voting process without interfering with election officials and voters, and receiving disability-related accommodations.

Common Cause Wisconsin recognizes the challenging task the WEC staff had in compiling comments, first-hand accounts, and feedback of the advisory committee with various nonpartisan organizations and active political parties in the state who often work with election observers. WEC staff and commissioners spent many hours facilitating the advisory committee, considering outside input from individuals and organizations, and having honest discussions about how to improve the role of the election observer. The commissioners should be commended for finding common ground in the submitted draft of this rule in areas they initially had disagreements. As a result, this rule reflects fairness with clear, applicable expectations of election observers.

Observers, voters, and election officials rely on clear information from the WEC and the legislature. Common Cause Wisconsin supports Draft Election Observer Rule EL 4 and requests that the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules move to pass this rule as written (with discussion and consideration of the Clearinghouse Rule 24-032 Wisconsin Legislative Council [1] comments that offer clarifying suggestions). Establishing clear rules and standards for election observers across the state will help improve citizen confidence in the voting process and help observers in their important role of witnessing the election process.




Jay Heck
608/512-9363 (cell)

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

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