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to Senators on the Elections Committee Oct. 16
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a Bill Becomes Law (18 page pdf)
This page http://tinyurl.com/ClosedPP
Monday, October 17, 2011
Protect Voters from Surprise Polling
Place Changes or Closures
will undercut voter protection against surprise polling place changes.
This bill (actually
sub amendment 1), will likely pass in October 2011. Fair
Elections Wisconsin is asking for an amendment, so that instead of
undercutting voter protections, the bill will enhance voter protection.
Please contact your
Letter and report is below:
For printable versions, see our letter and
August 24, 2011
Representative Gary Tauchen, Chair, Assembly
Committee on Election and Campaign Reform
After the public hearing for SB-116, it was amended
to weaken protection for voters against an unexpected change in their
polling place. We look forward to presenting testimony against this
change at a public hearing held by your committee on this amended bill.
(The major provision of SB-116 is moving the September primary to August.)
Under current law, municipalities must establish
polling places 60 days in advance of a fall election. The amended version
of SB-116 would reduce this to 30 days.
We are prepared to present evidence that 30 days is
not adequate for voters to be informed. This summer,
to close polling places approximately 30 days before the election.
20% of the Glendale electorate appeared at the closed polling places
expecting to vote. Citizen volunteers, concerned by the short notice,
directed them to the proper polling place (up to 6 miles away), but many
were on their way to work and unable to go to a second location. The
full report is
Instead of weakening voter protection, we ask that
SB-116 be amended to improve voter protection. Attached to this
letter is our detailed proposal.
We discovered these weaknesses in current procedures
for notifying voters about polling place changes:
- There is currently no requirement that
municipal clerks update the Statewide Voter Registration System.
Thus, voters checking for their polling place at
Voter Public Access (the GAB website)
may get wrong information. Voters who recently registered will be sent
verification postcards that might have the wrong polling place listed.
- There is currently no requirement that a notice
be placed at a closed polling place. Exception: A notice is
currently required for an election that is solely for a school district.
- There is currently no requirement that voters
be informed by mail, even if the polling place is changed from the
primary to the final election.
- There is no deadline by which polling places
are established for an election that is solely for a school
- The only notification required is a newspaper
notice the day before an election. While this is important, many
people are no longer getting information from newspapers.
We would be happy to talk with you, and look forward
to appearing at an upcoming public hearing for SB-116.
cc: Members of the
Assembly Committee on Election and Campaign Reform, Kevin Kennedy, GAB
Amend SB-116 to Protect
Currently, municipalities must establish polling
places 60 days before fall elections. SB-116 was amended after the public
hearing to reduce this to 30 days, thereby reducing voters’ protection
against being surprised by a polling place change.
SB-116 has passed the Senate and been referred to the
Assembly Committee On Election and Campaign Reform. (The companion
Below are proposed amendments to SB-116, to
improve protection for voters:
- The governing body of the municipality must
establish polling places 45 calendar days before each regularly
scheduled election. For special elections, municipalities must
establish polling places 35 days before the election.
- For elections that are solely for the school
district, 120.06 (9) currently allows the school board to select the
polling places. This proposal would require the selection to be made 45
days before the election.
- If a municipality closes or changes a polling
place from the previous election, or if voters are assigned to a
different polling place (e.g. redistricting), the requirements in Tables
1 and 2 apply.
- The requirements in the tables apply to all
elections: spring, fall, special, and solely school district, with the
exceptions listed in the tables.
Municipal Clerk has the responsibility to:
Ensure that SVRS is updated with correct polling
At least 30 days before each election*
Voters have a right to expect that they will get
correct info from VPA, and from the verification postcards sent to new
Notify County Clerk about polling place changes.
At least 30 days before each election
Many County Clerks maintain websites with polling
place locations. Many voters get info from County Clerks.
Notify all candidates for all offices affected by
the change, for which the municipal clerk is the filing officer, by
either email, phone, fax, in person, or letter.
At least 30 days before each election
Candidates’ campaigns will be a conduit for
information to voters. Clerks should be encouraged (but not required)
to notify all candidates on the ballot that are affected by the
Post a notice at each polling place that has been
closed since the previous election.
Required now only for elections that are solely
for school districts.
*Exception: If there is less than 30 days between
elections (e.g. special election), then this update is required no later
than 1 week after the previous election.
Table 2 - Exceptional circumstances
If a polling place is changed between a primary
and the final election, each registered voter must be informed by
Clerk may choose the optimum time
Changes between the primary and the final
election are very confusing for voters.
If any of the deadlines in table 1 are not met
(for any reason), each registered voter must be informed of the
polling place change by mail.***
Clerk may choose the optimum time
Mail to voters is the best notification method.
If there is an unexpected emergency (such as a
polling place fire) that requires a polling place change later than 45
days before an election (35 for special elections), the Clerk and the
municipality are not in violation of the law.
Actions in both tables required as soon as
Expected to be a rare occurrence.
** For elections that are solely for the school
district, the school board assumes this cost.
*** For elections that are solely for the school
district, the school board assumes this cost if they miss the 45-day
Note that under this proposal, the municipality (and
the school district when applicable) retains full authority to establish
What we did on
Election Day July 12, 2011
28 different volunteers stood outside four of the
closed polls in Glendale on July 12th. Their purpose was to
inform any voters who showed up at the
that the poll was closed and that the single, open poll was at City Hall.
The volunteers also offered voters a map from the closed poll to the open
poll and encouragement to go to that poll to vote.
Why we did it:
We were very concerned that people in Glendale were
going to be denied their right to vote on July 12th because of
the closed polls. Tanya Lohr, the organizer of the effort, called the
Glendale City Hall to ask what was going to be done to inform Glendale
residents of the change. They would not give her specifics, but she was
assured that voters would know about the change and that few people would
show up at the closed polls. However, it became increasingly obvious that
this was not the case, so we decided to stand at the closed polls in order
to protect people’s right to vote.
What we found:
We were anticipating 3-4 voters per 2-hour shift to
show up at the closed polls. What we found instead was an average of 21
voters who showed up at each closed poll per 2-hour shift, which includes
the last shift where less than 10 people showed up per location. A
minimum of 505 voters came to the closed polls on July 12th
fully expecting to be able to vote there. Our conclusion was that
Glendale voters had NOT been properly informed of the change.
How we think the closed polls negatively effected
voter turn out:
- Even with our presence, the closed polls kept
numerous Glendale residents from voting on July 12th. They
showed up at the closed poll on their way to work and did not have time
to go back to City Hall. We encouraged them to vote after work, but
many of them weren’t going to be back in time.
- Due to the one, open poll, the lines at that
polling place became very long. In fact, there were times when the wait
was over one hour long. Numerous people left the line because they
didn’t have time to wait that long to vote. Had the other polls been
open, there wouldn’t have been that long of a wait.
- Several of the people who came to the closed polls
were so angry about it that they said they weren’t going to vote
anymore. They stated that it was obvious that their vote doesn’t matter
anymore so to hell with the whole system.
- One woman walked over a mile to the closed poll
with her daughter. They could not walk an additional 6 miles to the
one, open poll.
- One woman unloaded her four young children before
our volunteers could get to her to inform her that the poll was closed.
She gave an exasperated sigh and said there was no way she was going to
pack, unpack and pack her kids all up again to vote in another
location. She did not vote that day.
- In general, voters left the closed polls angry,
frustrated, and in many cases, feeling undervalued. That’s not what
voting should be about. Voting should be about people feeling empowered
about their ability to have a voice in their government and feeling
proud that they were able to use that voice.
In general, 20% of the voters in Glendale that day
showed up at a closed poll first. It was obvious to us that either the
City of Glendale did not actually follow the recommended method of
informing voters of changes to polling places OR the recommended method is
in need of revision in order to reach more voters.
Editor's note: Also see the Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel Election Day
article, and this MJS
article on confusion for the next election.
The main Senate committee for election bills is
Transportations and Elections
3 Republicans: Chair is
Mary Lazich (New Berlin).
Vice Chair is
Frank Lasee (Bellevue).
The main Assembly committee for election
Election and Campaign
5 Republicans: Chair is
Gary Tauchen (Bonduel). Vice-Chair is Kathy
Bernier (Chippewa Falls). Members:
Pridemore (Hartford), Chad
Weininger (Green Bay).
Jocasta Zamarippa (Milwaukee),
Kelda Helen Roys (Madison),
Malischke about this page.