Top Wisconsin official: ‘A lot of gray areas' in laws governing election observers must be addressed

Georgia secretary of state warns of ‘election depression’ over not trusting results: ‘You’re going to depress your turnout'

Updated: December 16, 2020 - 10:16am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Wisconsin Election Commission Director Meagan Wolfe is warning that “gaps” and “a lot of gray areas” in the laws related to Election Day observers need to be addressed before the next election.

“Observers are a really important part of the process,” Wolfe said during a discussion Tuesday organized by the Bipartisan Policy Center titled, “The 2020 Voting Experience and Goals for Reform.” 

“The statutes govern that these important aspects are very broad and they say things like, ‘the table for observers can be 3 to 8 feet from registration or a poll book’ but it otherwise leaves the logistics of how observers are to interact in the polling places, what materials they're able to review, where they’re able to be," she added.

Wolfe said the handling of observers is “at the discretion” of the chief polling “inspectors” at each of the 4,000 polling places in the battleground state.

“This means there are 4,000 ways the process can be carried out and it can result in very different experiences in different polling places and so I think there are a lot of gray areas that need to be addressed and we need to recognize that those gaps exist and that we, as election administrators, have to have tools to deal with them in real time,” she said.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger also participated in the event, a day after he announced there would be an audit of the signatures on a sample of absentee ballots in Cobb County as a result of the Trump campaign’s criticism of the handling of mail-in voting.

Raffensperger was not directly asked about the audit during the discussion but warned that criticism of the way states like Georgia handled the Nov. 3 election could cause “election depression” in the future.

“Stacey Abrams always talked about voter suppression. If people continue to talk about ‘you can’t trust results’ you’re going to have voter depression, in other words, you’re going to depress your turnout,” he said. “The very people who want to turn out are going to say, why bother if it doesn’t mean anything? And so that’s why it’s not really, if you think about it, you’re working against your own self-interest to do that. It’s not logistical. At the end of the day, people really need to look at the facts.”