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Dane County asks AG for opinion on ‘Zuckerbucks’ amendments

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(The Center Square) – Dane County is asking Wisconsin’s attorney general to give them a definition of who is, and who is not, an “election official.”

The county’s lawyer filed a request with Attorney General Josh Kaul for an official opinion about Wisconsin’s recently enacted constitutional amendment that bans outside influence in the state’s elections.

Dane County’s question, in essence, is which election law are election clerks supposed to use.

“[One election law] defines an ‘election official’ as an individual who was charged with any duties relating to the conduct of an ‘election.’ [Another election law] defines an election as ‘every public primary and election.’ It also defines a referendum as an election. if these statutes are controlling, the issue of who is an elected official is easily resolved,” the county wrote in its letter to Kaul. “However the issue was complicated [ by a third election law] which states ‘only election officials appointed’ may conduct an election. A literal and textual interpretation of that law would mean that county clerks and municipal clerks and their employees and other officials with a role in elections like Boards of canvassers are not election officials that may conduct elections.”

One of Wisconsin “Zuckerbucks” amendments was designed to keep outside groups, like the Mark Zuckerberg-funded Center for Tech and Civic Life, from using grants to influence or involve themselves in election operations in the state.

The other amendment was designed to prevent non-government employees from working on election administration in Wisconsin.

Dane County’s request seeks clarification on that point.

“Each municipal clerk ‘has charge and supervision of Elections and registration within the municipality’ [according to Wisconsin state law.] This provision should be construed to give clerks authority and discretion to appoint as many ‘election officials’ as are necessary to successfully hold an election, so long as they comply with the requirement that they are an elector of the county,” the county said.

Republican lawmakers said they want to ban outside workers from Wisconsin elections because they want to make sure voters can trust their local election clerk to actually be running the election.

Dane County is also questioning some of the verbiage of the amendments.

The county says it is up to the attorney general to decide these questions because lawmakers have gone home for the year, and they won’t be back in session until after the November election.

“There will be no legislative action this year following the adoption of the Constitutional Amendment and prior to election officials being required to interpret and apply the language. local clerks are currently arranging for assistance in preparing for the fall elections and signing contracts with vendors. the legislature will have an opportunity to clarify its intent in the next legislative session. In the meantime, County and Municipal clerks need guidance in how to apply the language of the amendment,” the county added.

Kaul has opened a public comment period for his opinion and will take comments through May 13.

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