This stand-alonee-learning is intended be a companion resource to the Official Wisconsin Election Observer Manual, not a replacement for actually reading it! Whether you watch this video before or after you read the manual or both, the better you prepare yourself to exercise your right to be an observer of the election process.
Each Topic is hyperlinked to its corresponding Tab behind which you will find a summary of what you need to know about that aspect of the voting process and your role as an Election Observer in it.
The best way to go through this training is chronologically starting at the top with Basic Knowledge. The Forms section is where you can see and print documents you may need, including the entire Official Election Observer Manual. Click on Observation Basics now.
As an Election Observer, you might be watching and taking notes anywhere in the election process – except the voting booth, of course. From voter registration in a municipal clerk’s office or nursing home, to early absentee voting , to voting in person on Election Day. All these activities benefit by having friendly eyes keeping watch to ensure fairness and justice… Let’s start with an overview by clicking What to Expect now.
It’s not easy to stay comfortable and alert for long periods of time, so take what you need to settle in, take great notes, and keep track of time. There are scenarios where you can use cell phones in the polling place, but only to help with official duties – like making calls to get answers to questions or helping officials take care of problems.Camera use is similar, but remember, when you’re outside you can always document suspicious behavior and vehicles.
Arrive Early…What you do before you even begin can help smooth the way for rest of the day. Your spot in the polling place is important; you must be set-up within a given election observer area in such a way that you can hear voters give their name and address to the poll-worker. Start taking detailed notes about how the room is set-up and get yourself used to taking notes right away – besides, taking notes helps pass the time.
Expect company. Many people are involved in the voting process. In fact, you may not be the only election observer. Anyone, other than candidates, can stay at a polling place to observe the voting process as long they can read, write, and understand the English language. But each party tries to get official election observers in place to ensure that every election is conducted in a manner that is fair, transparent and accessible to all. A Chief Election Inspector is the poll-worker in charge of a polling place. He or she gives the instructions and has the final say. Only if you see something really questionable should you not cooperate, because the Chief Election Inspector can remove you for cause.Being polite helps everyone stay positive. Make sure if you make suggestions, you do so in a cooperative and respectful way.
It’s just as important to know who is not eligible to vote.
If a driver’s license has been lost or stolen, the voter must call the DMV and get his driver’s license from them.
ADD verbiage about procedure p25
Focus on stress points. So what’s a stress point? For example, you might notice that the Chief Election Inspector is hovering around at a table or a crowd starts to develop – it may be that someone has a question that needs answering, but whatever it is, something unusual is happening. When you see a stress point, try to observe what is going on and take notes. The trick is to focus on the problem from within the area allowed for Election Observers and to not interfere with the process, and always remember to give the Chief Election Inspectors time to try to fix the problem before you raise an issue with them.
There is a specific process for challenging a voter when reasonable cause exists. Always remember your role is NOT as a policeman, it is simply to be a careful witness of election process details. As long as you don’t insert yourself in to the voting process or impede the process, you don’t pose a problem. Your best offense is to have a good relationship with the poll-workers and the Chief Inspector.
“Are they alive?” is an unofficial question, but the assumption is if they show up, they’re good for that one.
In fact, most of the conduct at polling places is routine and easily dealt with. It is when problems occur that your eyewitness observations, detailed notes, and call for Hotline help when needed make the difference.
Many times, decisions made early in the day affect the rest of the day and the integrity of the voting process. During the day, tedium can take its toll – so walk outside from time to time to get some fresh air and note how long it takes people to get in and out of the polling place and whether any electioneers are trying to influence votes within range. Crunch time comes at the end of a long day and mistakes can get made. Your job is done once the last voter leaves and the votes are counted.
Each Topic is hyperlinked to its corresponding Tab behind which you will find a summary of what you need to know about that aspect of the voting process and your role as an Election Observer in it. The best way to go through this training is chronologically starting at the top with Basic Knowledge. The Forms section is where you can see and print documents you may need, including the entire Official Election Observer Manual. Click on Basic Knowledge now.
Official Election Manual Overview
Last revised—May 2010
Navigating Tips • Election
How to Make this Work for You
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that section. find the
Table of Contents
Election Observer Manual Overview
Before Voting Takes Place
After Voting Takes Place
• What Observation Means
• Where Observation Occurs
What Observation Means
• Observe and document only. Manual
• Do not discuss politics or wear
• Do not handle any official
• Be courteous and polite.
Caution: The chief inspector can have
you removed for any reason.
Where Observation Occurs
Prior to Election Day at: Manual
• The municipal clerk’s office during the
absentee voting period.
• Nursing homes and community
On Election Day at the polls:
• During voting.
• After polls close to witness the ballot
count (open to all citizens).
Note: Half-day shifts at the polls are also
• Going to the Polls on Election
• What to Do Once You Arrive
• Who Else Is Involved
• Who Is Eligible to Vote
• Who Is Not Eligible to Vote
Going to the Polls on Election Day
• Polls open at 7:00 AM. Plan on being
• Make sure you have the manual.
• Take a notebook and a pen for
• Your cell phones can only be used for
personal reasons outside the polling
place (in a hallway, another room…).
• Bring your own:
– Folding chair
What to Do Once You Arrive
• Sign in to get an observer nametag.
• Locate and set-up your spot in the
designated area for observing.
• Make sure you are able to hear the
• Check out the polling place:
– Traffic flow.
– Security of ballots.
– Voting machines.
Who Else Is Involved
• Chief Election Inspector
• Poll Workers
• Other Election Observers
• Attorneys from political parties
Note: You should not act as a greeter –
you are there to observe.
Who Is Eligible to Vote
A voter must be:
• 18 years old
• A U.S. Citizen
• A resident for at least 10 days
• Registered to vote
Who Is Not Eligible to Vote
• A resident for less than 10 days
• Temporary resident with the intent to
• A person under guardianship deemed
• Anyone who has made a bet or wager
on the election
• Registration at the Polls
• Verifying Residence
• The Voting Process at the Polls
• Absentee Ballots
• Challenging Voters
• Reasons for Challenging
• Electioneering at the Polls
Registration at the Polls
Many errors can happen at the
registration table; this is the
most important area to observe.
• Registrants must fill out a registration
form and produce an I.D.
– A Driver’s License must be used for ID, even
if it has been lost, stolen or suspended.
– A state issued I.D. or the last four digits of
the Social Security Number may be used,
only if the person has never been issued a
• Residency must be verified.
•The following documents may be used to verify residence:
• Print this
• Wisconsin Driver’s License take it
• Wisconsin State ID with you
• ID or license issued by a Wisconsin governmental body to the
• Any photo ID card issued by an employer – not a business
• Real estate tax bill or receipt for current or preceding year
• Residential lease that’s effective for a period covering Election
• University, college or technical institute fee card which
includes a photo
• University, college or technical institute ID card which includes
• A gas, electric, or telephone utility bill for the period
beginning no more than 90 days prior to Election Day
• A bank statement
• A paycheck
• A check or other document issued by a unit of government
• A corroborating witness
The Voting Process at the Polls
• Voter gets in line at the check-in table.
• Once at the table, the voter, not the
poll worker, states name and address.
• Two poll workers check the voter’s
name on identical poll lists.
If the name is … Then…
On the list the voter is issued a voter
number and a ballot.
Not on the list the individual is sent to the
• Voter goes into voting booth and votes,
then inserts his ballot into the machine.
• Citizens are allowed to vote by mail or at
the clerk’s office up to 30 days prior to
• These “absentee” ballots are delivered to
the polling place (or a central count
location) on Election Day.
• Poll workers assigned to this:
– Announce the name of the voter on the
absentee ballot envelope.
– Check for a witness’s signature on the
– Cast the ballot into the voting machine.
• Election observers (that’s you) may also
challenge these ballots.
• Election Observers should call the
HOTLINE for assistance.
• Observers have the right to challenge
a voter’s right to vote.
• The challenge must occur before the
voter is given a ballot.
• Observers must signify to the Chief
Election Inspector their intent “to
• It is the Chief Inspector’s job to make a
decision and conduct the challenge
Reasons for Challenging
• The challenge must be based on the
– Are they a citizen of the U.S.?
– Are they 18 years old?
– Are they a resident for at least 10 days?
– Are they a felon who has not had their
– Have they been judged incompetent?
– Have they made a bet or wager?
– Have they already voted in this election?
Electioneering at the Polls
• The following must be 100+ feet from the
– Candidates, political supporters, or activists.
– Distribution of campaign materials or display
of campaign signs.
• A vehicle with political bumper sticker may
remain ONLY as long as it takes its owner to
• No political discussions may take place
inside the polls.
• Voters are allowed to wear political apparel,
but they must leave as soon as they finish
After the Polls Close
• The polls must close at 8:00 PM,
unless by court order.
• The chief election inspector will
position a designated poll worker at
the end of the line at 8:00 PM.
• Any citizen, including a candidate, is
allowed into the polling place to
witness the counting of ballots.
• Election observers are asked to witness
the closing procedures – a crucial part of
the Election Day.
• This process has many facets – at the first
sign of trouble call the HOTLINE.
• Tabulators aid the poll workers in counting
and tallying the votes.
• Numerous forms must be filled out and
• Ballots (used and unused) must be
accounted for, secured, and sealed.
• Documentation of this process must be
included in your notes.
Congratulations and Thank You!
• Your day is done.
• Make sure you answer the questions
from the questionnaire at the back of
the manual directly into your notes.
• Organize and secure all your
documentation and take it home with you.
• If there is a recall or problem at your
polling place, you will be called upon for
your documentation! It is important.
Thank you for your
service to our country
Last revised—May 2010
• Official Election Observer
• Hotline Data Sheet
Hotline Data Sheet
HOTLINE NUMBER: 1 -______ -______ -________
Municipal Clerk: _________________________ Phone: _________________________________
County Clerk: ____________________________ Phone: _________________________________
How the HOTLINE NUMBER works:
– This number changes every election. It connects to people who will help you determine what to
Why you should call:
– You should call whenever you see or hear something that is out of the ordinary. Pay attention to
the contents of this manual and the examples it contains for further guidance.
When you should call:
– You may call before the polls open, throughout the day, or after the polls close with any questions
you have regarding something you have observed during your shift, especially if you have brought
it to the attention of the Chief Election Inspector and it has not been resolved.
How you should call:
– Make sure you bring a cell phone and paper and pen for use during your shift on Election Day. You
are not allowed to call from inside the polling place itself, so make sure you step out into a hallway
or outside if necessary. It may be important for you to make your call from a location that is more
private so as not to be overheard.
– Document the information with the date and time the incident occurred.
– Include a description of the person in general and a name if at all possible.
– Include a description about the incident itself with the names of any people involved.
– Document the steps you may have taken to get it corrected in case there is a problem with the
polling place or the election in general.
Print this page.
• Save your notes until after the election has been certified and there is no chance of a recount. If you feel there are any
problems as you document your day, call the HOTLINE NUMBER. If you are assigned to the first shift of the day:
1. Document the county, municipality and wards where you are observing.
2. Note the date and the time your shift began.
3. Note the names of any election officials present, including the Chief Election Inspector and the poll
4. Are there any other campaigns or groups present?
5. Did all election officials agree that the machines present were the proper machines?
6. Did at least two election officials identify each machine; verify that it was the proper machine; that it
was in the proper working order and that it was secure?
7. Did each machine’s vote counting mechanism show a “zero count” (no pre-Election Day votes)?
8. Did the machines appear to be well kept and in working condition?
• Observations to be made throughout your shift (remember to include the time and a description of the event or
situation, and a description or the names of any people involved):
1. Answer questions 1-4 above.
2. How many election officials were present in the polling place?
3. Were there any unauthorized persons in the polling place?
4. Were there long lines at the polls?
5. How long was the wait to cast a ballot? Check this at various times throughout the day.
6. How many voting booths were there?
7. Did the voting equipment appear to be in good working order?
8. Are there adequate supplies? (Blank ballots, marking pens, etc.)
9. Was the polling place handicapped accessible?
10. Were election instructions posters displayed where they could be easily read?
11. Is there any campaigning in the polling place?
12. Do you see any effort to intimidate or interfere with individuals seeking to cast a ballot?
13. Were you ever barred from observing the voting process?
14. Are voters who are in the wrong polling place being redirected to the proper one?
15. Are there any instances where a voter was permitted to vote a regular ballot (not a provisional one)
even though the voter wasn’t qualified to do so?
16. Did provisional voters and poll-workers properly complete and sign the certifications on the
provisional ballot envelope? Are provisional ballots being placed in the provisional ballot envelopes,
sealed and placed in the separate provisional ballot box or envelope?
17. Have you observed any voter that voted more than once?
18. Does anything seem unusual about the polling place?
Print this page.