Poll workers in Ashland during the April 7, 2020 election. (Contributed photo)
Poll workers in Ashland during the April 7, 2020 election. (Contributed photo)

Bill would mandate Election Day service. Goal is to reduce unfounded claims about election integrity.

Democratic state legislators have unveiled a bill that would require non-judicial state elected officials to be trained for and work at polling places on election days, with the stated goal of having Republicans who make unfounded criticisms of election integrity become more involved in a process roundly seen by experts as secure.

Rep. Lee Snodgrass (D-Appleton), Rep. Kristina Shelton (D-Green Bay), and Sen. Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire) introduced the bill, and they also hosted Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell to add additional context to their goal of increasing confidence in the state’s election process in every community.

“Across Wisconsin, we all can agree that we all want and need fair, legitimate, transparent, and well-staffed elections that follow election law and uphold our shared values,” Shelton said.

If passed into law, elected officials would need to volunteer during their first term and then subsequently every three years in following terms. Elected officials cannot volunteer at elections where they are on the ballot. The election shift has to be at least eight hours.

“This is not just a press opportunity,” Snodgrass said. 

Earlier: Different Approaches on Fixing Elections vs. ‘The Fix Is In’

To avoid scheduling conflicts, the bill would bar legislative sessions on Election Day. Elected officials would have the option of a medical exemption if they are unable to volunteer. 

Republicans and Democrats alike would have the opportunity to observe elections and acquire a greater appreciation for the process, the sponsors said. 

The legislation was written in response to unfounded allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, specifically in swing states like Wisconsin. Many Republican elected officials are proposing new legislation in the name of election security, but the bills would actually make it more difficult to cast ballots and bring no increase in the already high level of security.

Smith is hopeful that this bill would help his Republican colleagues overcome the “big lie” that they have been “unfortunately still using as an excuse to suppress voters.” 

“The confidence in our elections are at stake, and with that confidence going down, our republic is at stake. It is so important that we restore that confidence,” he said. 

Implementing this requirement would make elected officials obligated to learn more about elections, which McDonell said they have not made enough effort to do in the past.

“The lack of knowledge is astounding. The last hearing [Republicans] had in December, they did not invite any municipal clerks to participate in their public hearing on the last election,” McDonell said.

“Having the knowledge of the day-to-day operations of how the election actually works from an administrative point of view would be really helpful, and that knowledge is really missing.”

In addition, they say, having elected officials volunteer during elections would address staffing shortages in certain municipalities.