How close is too close? Legislation being considered at the Capitol would move election observers closer to the action at polling places. Opponents of the measure suggest it may be too close for comfort in the minds of many voters.
The bill from Representative Don Pridemore would put election observers within five feet of tables where voters register, and state their names to be issued a voter number. Current rules stipulate six to twelve feet, but Pridemore, a Hartford Republican, contends that doesn’t always happen. “You can’t observe an election process when you’re standing 20 feet away from a table,” he said during a committee hearing on Tuesday. “I would challenge you to be able to do that as an observer. I have seen instances where poll observers have been placed that far back.”
Nancy Zastrow is with the Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association, which opposes the bill (AB 202). “Having them (observers) less than six feet away, at times can cause hardships in some of the polling areas,” she told the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee. “Plus it can be disruptive or intimidating to the poll worker or the voter.”
Zastrow said clerks make every effort to accommodate observers, but the five foot requirement would not solve the problems Pridemore cites, especially given the wide variety of locations that serve as polling places. “We do try to get them as close as possible,” she said. “But to have legislation telling us that it needs to be five feet . . . that is too restrictive.”