MADISON, Wis. — Questions about election integrity seem to still be on the minds of some Wisconsin voters as November nears, despite no evidence of widespread fraud ever being found.
When you ask election officials, whether at the local or state level, about the biggest challenges they face ahead of the fall general election, the most common answer is misinformation.
It has become a time-consuming battle for the more than 1,800 clerks across the state as they try to move on from past elections and get ready for the next.
“When you look at things like public records requests or demands to have access to elections, those are good,” said Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe. “We're encouraged by people's wanting to engage with the election process, but it's also a huge increase in the demand on us as election administrators, and we're not seeing that the resources available to us at the state, county, or local level is keeping pace with a lot of those demands.”
An Exclusive Spectrum News/Siena College Poll found more than half of likely Wisconsin voters think the upcoming election will be carried out fairly, with every attempt to prevent fraud while ensuring access to the polls.
However, you would not know that by the number of requests clerks continue to deal with daily. Marie Moe with the Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association said a lot of members feel bogged down.
“I'm a full-time clerk, that's my main job,” said Moe. “We have a lot of clerks from small municipalities that that's their part-time job, so imagine them trying to keep up with everything that we're trying to keep up with.”
In Dane County, home to the state's capital city, clerk Scott McDonell has published as many records as he can online, just to avoid more requests for them.
“It's just the unrelenting copy-and-paste open records requests,” McDonell explained. “That is just killing clerks across the state, across the country, really.”
Like most clerks, McDonell is happy to answer questions but often feels like no one is listening.
“Often, I'll try to show people like 'Here's how that can't happen,' but I feel like I'm talking to one grain of sand on a beach that's miles long,” said McDonell.
According to the poll, almost two-thirds of likely voters also feel like they can trust the accuracy of the 2022 election results, while 30% said they won't be able to.
“I still believe that people can be nonpartisan and execute their job in a neutral way, take an oath, and I hope that argument wins out at the end of the day,” said McDonell.
Another increasingly common problem for clerks is staffing shortage, which can become a sort of vicious cycle.
McDonell said when longtime election workers quit, less experienced people usually fill those roles. In many cases, that increases the likelihood of clerical errors, which, more often than not, are used to further scrutinize the state's electoral process.
For a full list of the poll results, click here.