All eyes are on Wisconsin as the over eighteen hundred municipal clerks prepare to administer the 2024 Presidential election this fall. On May 16th a joint informational hearing was held by the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate Elections Committees to begin investigating election integrity concerns related to noncitizens voting. One of the biggest takeaways from the hearing, not related to noncitizens registering to vote, was how Washington and Rock County Clerks have stepped up to address training for the municipal clerks in their counties to properly prepare them for this election cycle.

Wisconsin law requires that all municipal clerks update their election training once every two years by taking a minimum of six hours of training by December 31st of the odd year. The election training courses are meant to update clerks on new laws and train them on how to administer elections in accordance with the Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) manual. Clerks are certified to administer elections once they complete their six hours of training.

Recently, Matt Kittle from The Federalist highlighted the threat to election integrity in Green Bay with a municipal clerk who admits she didn’t understand the law. Green Bay made national news in the 2020 election cycle due to the former clerk leaving her role prior to the election due to the involvement of the Center for Tech and Civic Life. If the clerk in Green Bay doesn’t feel properly prepared by her Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) training, how can we be sure the clerks in smaller communities are getting the training needed?

According to WEC’s December 1st update to the report, more than 50% of the municipal clerks in nine counties reported not completing six or more hours of required training: 87.5% in Ashland, 78.26% in Douglas, 77.27% in Green, 75% in Vernon, 73.33% in Calumet, 72% in Washburn, 68.42% in Langlade, 67.65% in Monroe, and 66.67% in Burnett. Five days before the deadline for municipal clerks to have completed their training which is required to be eligible to administer elections for the 2024-2025 cycle, the WEC report still had multiple clerks who were short the hours required. For example, more than 50% of the municipal clerks in eighteen counties had reported not completing six or more hours of required training: 80% in Ashland, 76.92% in Taylor, more than 60% in Douglas, Grant, Forest, Washburn, Florence, Lafayette, Green, Iowa, Clark, and Pierce, more than 50% in Monroe, Calumet, Wood, Adams, Langlade, and Oneida.

Municipal clerks often have multiple duties and responsibilities which monopolize their days, and this is especially true in cases where clerks are part-time employees. However, the integrity of our country’s elections is dependent on the proper administration of election activities prior to, during, and post elections.

In addition to the extensive training both Rock and Washington counties are going above and beyond to provide to their municipal clerks and clerks from other counties, Washington County passed an election integrity package which will ensure faith in their elections this cycle. The package is intended to fund additional election related activities by municipalities within the county on a voluntary basis. Included in the $150,000 package are funds for additional staff to administer elections and have the ability to extend hours for in-person absentee voting with clerks, election night audits and a county-wide audit, hard cases to better protect expensive voting equipment that the municipalities purchase. The County is also offering funds to their municipalities who currently use central count facilities to discontinue use of the facilities by buying back extra equipment and returning absentee ballot processing to polling locations upon municipal approval. All of these voluntary options help to further support municipalities and ensure election integrity in Washington County. This is a huge step that every county in Wisconsin can take to show that they are invested in ensuring the mistakes of the past do not turn the spotlight back onto Wisconsin in November.