Janet Bewley

A bill co-authored by 25th Dist. State Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, would allow municipal officials to serve as election officials. The bill has passed both houses of the Legislature and awaits Gov. Scott Walker’s signature.

Bewley’s district includes Barron County.

The legislation, co-authored by (among others) Bewley and State Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, is likely to save money now being spent by small local governments to run elections, Bewley said in a press release Friday, March 9, 2018.

Before 2016, many Wisconsin city council and village or town board members served as poll workers on Election Day. But the practice was discontinued after an attorney from the League of Wisconsin Municipalities pointed out that the practice was prohibited under state law.

After the rule change, municipalities across the state had to hire election workers, a practice that increased the cost of local elections.

“I want to thank Representative Subeck for inviting me to co-author this bill,” Bewley said. “Whether it’s in the City of Madison or a village in northwestern Wisconsin, it is imperative for our polling locations to be well-staffed with individuals who have prior experience and institutional knowledge.”

The bill’s authors include members of both parties and it is supported by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, the Wisconsin County Clerks Association, the Wisconsin Towns Association and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.

Current law prohibits the governing body of a municipality from holding another office or position within the city, village or town that they represent, with three narrow exceptions. Assembly Bill 85 adds serving as an election official to that list of exemptions. The bill does not remove the current prohibition that prevents an elected official from serving as an election official when his or her name is on the ballot.

“Voters deserve elections that run smoothly,” said Senator Bewley. “In Northwestern Wisconsin, it is hard enough for small communities to recruit enough poll workers for Election Day. This bill will ease a burden on our local communities and I’m pleased to have worked with Representative Subeck to get this done. I hope Governor Walker signs the bill soon.”

On Monday, March 12, Joseph Hoey, a member of Bewley’s staff, said that information on the bill can be found on the legislature’s website at https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2017/proposals/reg/asm/bill/ab85

The governor can call for the bill, to review and/or sign it, before April 12, he said. After that date, the bill will be sent to his office, and Walker will have six business days to either sign or veto the measure. If the governor takes neither action, the bill will become law without his signature, Hoey added.