This summer, LWVWI launched an educational series highlighting various election security topics so we are all better informed about the processes in place to ensure our elections are fair, accessible, and secure. This week, let's look at Wisconsin's unique system of administering elections at the local level and the strengths of a decentralized system.
What does it mean to have a decentralized election administration system? It might sound complicated, but it just means that the decision-making power of our elections is spread throughout local areas of the state.
While the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) is the state agency responsible for overseeing our elections, local municipal clerks in our communities hold the vast majority of power and influence over how elections are run. There are local clerks based in more than 1,850 municipalities in Wisconsin!
This system is different than lots of other states. But our decentralized model has lots of benefits for Wisconsin voters! Our decentralized model allows local election officials to tailor their election procedures to their community's specific needs, promoting efficiency and adaptability.
The WEC supports these local clerks by providing, non-binding guidance, training, and help interpreting our election laws — however, it is up to local clerks to make critical decisions and do the work to run our elections.
The decentralized system also acts as a robust defense against potential threats or interference in our elections. By distributing responsibilities across multiple communities, the impact of any manipulation would be limited, making it very challenging for bad actors to disrupt the entire electoral process.
Decentralized administration also enhances transparency and accountability. Two things we love in our elections! Local clerks, who are often known within their communities, are directly accountable to the voters and communities they serve. This fosters trust and ensures that election practices remain accountable and in line with the needs and expectations of voters.