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The Madison School distict has asked the city of Madison to do background checks on poll workers.

The Capital Times file photo

The Republican Party of Wisconsin is planning a concerted effort this year to make sure it is represented at polling locations across the state, making use of a little-known state law that allows the parties to name poll workers.

The law, which had been used only sporadically before, allows political parties to submit lists of poll workers to municipal clerks, a rule intended to give each party representation at polling locations to oversee the accuracy of the process. 

Clerks must choose workers from the submitted lists, the breakdown of which is based on the number of votes each party's candidate received at that polling place in the previous gubernatorial or presidential election.

For many years, clerks have been left to choose and train their own poll workers without much input from the parties, state election officials said this week. That is changing this year, though the GOP is not saying why. 

"We are not discussing our internal strategy at this time," said Nicole Larson, Republican Party of Wisconsin spokeswoman.

Graeme Zielinski, Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokesman, said the Democrats are not planning a counter offensive. He said the Democrats will leave poll worker lists to party officials in the individual counties.

"That's the way it has always been done," he said. 

Zielinski said the Republicans' new plan could have something to do with the state's new voter ID law. Signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker in May, the new rules — which require voters to show a photo ID before casting a ballot — are meant to address concerns over potential voter fraud.

But some election officials worry the law will slow down the voting process and could lead to frustration on Election Day. That could be more likely if the poll locations are staffed with new workers.

"I could end up with a polling location full of workers with no experience," said Diane Hermann-Brown, Sun Prairie city clerk and president of the Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association. "That would not be good."

Hermann-Brown has worked elections for 28 years and has been in charge in Sun Prairie since 1995. She said it has been at least a dozen years since she has received a nominee list. But she said some clerks get lists every election. For example, West Bend Clerk Amy Reuteman said she has received party lists for the past decade. 

The deadline for the parties to submit poll worker lists is Nov. 30.

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