Election observers to fan out statewide - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Election observers to fan out statewide

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Madison (WKOW) -- At Wisconsin's 2,822 polling places, voters will have company Tuesday.

Poll watchers from the political parties, non profit groups, even from Europe and Asia will witness the casting of ballots.

"They have to wear a name tag that says election observer,"  Wisconsin Government Accountability Board executive director Kevin Kennedy said.   Kennedy said a number of other rules govern the conduct of poll watchers, including coming no closer than six feet from voters at polling place registration tables and ballot booths.

Kennedy told 27 News there is a process for an election observer to challenge someone's eligibility to vote, but it is not invoked that often.   "It's not an easy thing, because it has to go to the voter's eligibility, it can't go to issues such as, 'Are they subject to foreclosure?'  It has to go to, 'Are they a U.S. citizen?  Are they 18?  Have they lived here for ten days?' "

Kennedy said it is much more common for a poll watcher to pay attention to who is not voting.

"One of the roles of an observer is make sure all the people they've identified as supporting a candidate (show up), you'll see them out there making phone calls at 4 in the afternoon to get persons they've identified as needing to vote who haven't voted yet."

State justice department attornies and investigators who have been trained in election observing will be at the polls, with no role in counting heads.   Wisconsin deputy attorney general Ray Taffora told 27 News they will instead focus on making sure the voting process complies with the law.

"It's important to have observers in the large population centers to ascertain what's going on, and to observe the process."   Taffora said justice department poll watchers will be concentrated at polling places in the state's major cities.

Taffora said former attorney general Peg Lautenschlager also deployed about 50 state justice department staffers to polling places four years ago.   Republican attorney general J.B. Van Hollen last month lost a court bid to force more checks of the validity of voter registrations, but state officials said election observing will not involve such checking. 

State officials said they will be escorting at least a dozen election observers from Saudi Arabia, Morroco, Khazikstan, and Germany at polling places in Milwaukee.

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