How Close Is Too Close For Election Observers?


State lawmakers are considering a bill to allow election observers to get closer to voters and poll workers.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Don Pridemore (R-Erin) originally allowed election observers to be within three feet. He’s now pushed it back a couple of feet. But for some, that’s still too close. Pewaukee election clerk Nancy Zastrow says poll workers need elbow room.

“This requirement will be very hard to accommodate for most of our polling places throughout Wisconsin. Having an observer within close proximity to our election workers will be distracting.”

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But an election board commissioner in Milwaukee, Bob Spindell, supports the bill allowing observers to be closer: “When somebody can’t see what’s going on they immediately think fraud, problems, et cetera.”

Democrats on the Assembly election committee repeatedly asked anyone mentioning or asserting fraud to verify how widespread it is. During the 2012 election, Milwaukee County prosecuted only 10 people for voter fraud. The election commission director for Milwaukee, Neil Albrecht, told lawmakers he opposes the bill, which allows observers to be within five feet of voters as they give poll workers their name and address. They can be just as close when a person registers to vote by showing personal documents.

Albrecht says this is problematic: “Observing their production of confidential documents is concerning and intimidating, particularly in an era of increasing awareness of identity theft.”

Currently, state election rules allow observers to stand 6-12 feet away.