Get PolitiFact in your inbox.

Poll workers sort out early and absentee ballots at the Kenosha Municipal building on Election Day on Nov. 3, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis. (AP) Poll workers sort out early and absentee ballots at the Kenosha Municipal building on Election Day on Nov. 3, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis. (AP)

Poll workers sort out early and absentee ballots at the Kenosha Municipal building on Election Day on Nov. 3, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis. (AP)

By Hope Karnopp December 4, 2023

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson’s line on how to register to be a poll worker is Mostly True

If Your Time is short

  • Political parties prepare lists of names of people interested in becoming poll workers.

  • Those nominees get first priority for open poll worker positions. But that applies to both sides, not just Republicans or conservatives. 

  • After that, it’s possible for unaffiliated poll workers — who apply through their local clerks — to fill the slots.

With the 2024 presidential contest less than one year away, parties are beginning to mobilize voters and clerks are starting their election preparations. 

That includes determining who will staff the polls on election days to help register voters, check photo IDs and explain how to mark ballots. 

In a Nov. 10 video posted to X (formerly Twitter) by the Wisconsin Republican Party, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said people concerned about election integrity can "go home and mope" or get involved to help elect Republicans.  

(Other PolitiFact Wisconsin items have debunked false claims of massive voter fraud and disproved persistent misconceptions about how the 2020 presidential election was administered in the state.)

Johnson suggested that Republicans who want to "restore confidence in our elections systems" can get trained and paid as poll workers and said: "In order to be a poll worker on the conservative side, you have to register through the Republican Party of Wisconsin." 

His claim caught our attention, especially after local clerks were the ones trying to enlist poll workers amid severe shortages during the Covid-19 pandemic

If you want to become a poll worker, do you have to register through a political party? Let’s take a look. 

Poll worker positions are first filled through political party lists

When asked for backup for the claim, Republican Party of Wisconsin Communications Director Matt Fisher shared a section of state law and memos prepared by the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Fisher cited Wis. Stat. 7.30, which says that the two dominant political parties (Democrats and Republicans) are responsible for submitting lists of nominees to become election inspectors, another term for poll workers. 

Under state law, "all inspectors shall be affiliated" with one of the two parties, unless they are appointed as a greeter or if the party list runs out of names. 

In that case, the mayor, village president or town board chair can appoint a poll worker "without regard to party affiliation."

Translation: the names prepared by political parties get first priority for the positions, but it’s still possible to become a poll worker without going through a party.

According to the commission’s page on becoming a poll worker, voters who are active in a political party can reach out to their county party to be nominated for a two-year term. This year, the parties had to submit their lists by Nov. 30.

Or, voters can contact their local clerk to learn about applying and become nominated on a nonpartisan basis.

But it’s becoming less common for poll workers to be assigned through that unaffiliated option, as parties have been preparing longer lists of potential names, a Nov. 2, 2022, Wisconsin Watch article found

Fisher also referenced Wisconsin Election Commission memos that explain the state law and lay out scenarios to ensure that each polling location has the correct balance of partisan appointees. 

Our ruling

Johnson said in the Republican Party video that "in order to be a poll worker on the conservative side, you have to register through the Republican Party of Wisconsin."

Although it’s possible for people — even if they have conservative or liberal beliefs — to become nonpartisan poll workers by going through their clerk, it’s less likely they’ll get a spot.. 

Johnson was referring to people who want to become a poll worker on the "conservative side," indicating they are involved in Republican politics and want to register that way. But the same is true of the Democratic side; it’s the way the system is built.

Our definition of Mostly True is "The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information." That fits here.

 

Our Sources

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Hope Karnopp

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson’s line on how to register to be a poll worker is Mostly True

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up