This joint resolution proposes an amendment to the state constitution to ban any state or local government from “apply[ing] for, accept[ing], expend[ing], or use[ing] any moneys or equipment in connection with the conduct of any primary, election, or referendum if the moneys or equipment are donated or granted by an individual or nongovernmental entity.” Further, “No individual other than an election official designated by law may perform any task in the conduct of any primary, election, or referendum.” 

The plight of local elections offices struggling to run elections on shoestring budgets has garnered attention for a significant amount of time and certainly since the 2012 election.[1] The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact also underscored the lack of flexibility in election budgets.[2] While municipalities run local, state, and federal elections in Wisconsin, the source of funding for those local elections offices is primarily local tax revenues, rather than a funding source that is sustainably designed and is a shared responsibility among all three levels of government.[3]

In addition to the challenges presented by the lack of significant public investment in election administration, the vague language included in the proposed constitutional amendment would create challenges in its enforcement. It is unclear whether the prohibition on expending or using any money or equipment would be retroactive, and the following terms are undefined:

  • “use”
  • “equipment”
  • “in connection with the conduct” of an election
  • “task in the conduct of” an election
  • “donated or granted”
  • “non governmental entity”

For example, the plain language appears to prevent election officials from even using tables, chairs, electrical outlets, or any other equipment or facilities present at polling places that are privately owned such as churches, private school buildings, community centers, or other privately owned locations. If the language is intended to be this inclusive, it could completely upset election officials’ ability to find an adequate number of polling places by limiting that search to only government owned facilities. 

Update: This joint resolution has passed the legislature in two consecutive sessions. As a result, two binding referendum questions will appear on the statewide April 2, 2024 ballot that will amend the state constitution if passed. The ballot questions can be viewed here.


[1] U.S. Presidential Commission on Election Administration, The American Voting Experience: Report and Recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, at 10, January 2014, (“The most universal complaint of election administrators in testimony before the Commission concerned a lack of resources.”).

[2] Pat Beall, Catharina Felke & Elizabeth Mulvey, As Trump and Biden Battle, Election Officials Are Running Out of Time, Money for November, PBS (July 14, 2020), wgbh/frontline/article/covid-voting-mail-in-ballots-election-officials-running-out-of-time-moneyfor-november/?sf125413278=1 [].

[3] Stewart, Jr., C., “The Cost of Conducting Elections,” MIT Election Data & Science Lab, May 16, 2022 at 4.; Sellers, Joshua and Roger Michalski, “Democracy on a Shoestring.” 74 Vanderbilt Law Review (2021) at 1088,


Representatives August, Bodden; Senator Wimberger


Passed both chambers



Bill number