After much confusion during Wisconsin’s last few elections, the state’s Government Accountability Board recently initiated a new “Back to Basics” program, seeking to re-educate election officials on election laws and procedures in preparation for the upcoming elections.
The program is a four-part webinar series focusing on absentee voting procedures, election day duties, election reform and planning for November.
According to an email from the GAB to all election officials, the GAB hopes these new webinar information sessions will be an effective way to educate election officials who have seen changes in laws and procedures lately.
“We feel the webinars we develop and conduct over the next year will be more timely and responsive to election law changes at the state level and will provide information and updates [election officials] need to continue to perform [their] job duties effectively,” the email read.
During the June 5 recall election, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin observed and reported several issues found at polling places around the state, mostly emphasizing there was much confusion regarding voting and voter registration.
In the report, the league outlined six recommendations for election officials in the future, the first point being to “improve training for election officials regarding acceptable proof of residence.”
Andrea Kaminski, executive director for the group, said she is glad to see that a training program will be implemented.
“All of these are issues due to human error or insufficient training among election officials,” Kaminski said. “There have been so many elections lately it is not surprising to hear about all of this confusion.”
As part of a non-partisan watchdog organization, Common Cause Wisconsin Executive Director Jay Heck said he believes the confusion stems from the voter identification law, which is currently under an injunction pending the end of two court cases.
“With the passage of the voter ID law put in place for the February primary election and then the courts blocking it, many people were unsure of what to do,” Heck said. “They did not understand what was still enforced and what was not. For instance, the old Wisconsin law required a 10-day residency, but now the 28-day residency portion of the law is still in place, that did not change from February.”
Heck added the new GAB program will be effective and further outreach to the voters is not needed, as the clerks will inform the local media about the trainings, who will then inform the public. Analiese Eicher, spokesperson for United Council of University of Wisconsin Students, said the confusion is not affecting students too much, but the program will be effective.
“While doing voter registration on campus, I had a couple of students ask me if they needed an ID,” Eicher said. “Students are smart; they know to ask questions. This program will be incredibly helpful not just in student wards. We need to solidify for clerks and poll workers what exactly these laws are uniformly across the state and make sure everyone has the correct information.”
Information on current Wisconsin election laws can be found on the GAB website: gab.wi.gov