Two Constitutional Amendment Questions On April 2nd Spring Election Ballot

On the April 2nd Spring Election ballot in Wisconsin, in addition to contests for local offices, judgeships, school board members and other positions, the Wisconsin Legislature had directed that there were also be two constitutional amendments passed by the Republican majority in the Legislature over the last several years to be put before voters for approval or rejection.

These questions received comparatively little public attention, but they are extremely important in how they may affect elections and democracy in Wisconsin and in your ability to participate in those elections fairly and freely.

In order to help you better understand these questions and their implications we defer to election law legal and policy expert, attorney Doug Poland of the Madison law firm of Stafford Rosenbaum, and one of the founders of the public interest consortium Law Forward, which defends and prosecutes many voter rights cases. Law Forward filed the legal challenge on behalf of 19 named Wisconsin plaintiffs to the 2021-22 Wisconsin gerrymander of state legislative districts last August which ultimately resulted in 2024 Act 94 – the establishment of new, constitutional and far more fair state legislative district maps for the upcoming 2024 August primary and November general elections.

Here is how Mr. Poland ably explains the two constitutional amendment questions:

Question 1

The first question, which will appear as Question 1, reads as follows:

Question 1: “Use of private funds in election administration. Shall section 7 (1) of article III of the constitution be created to provide that private donations and grants may not be applied for, accepted, expended, or used in connection with the conduct of any primary, election, or referendum?”

The background for this proposed amendment is that in 2020, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, donated a total of $350 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), an existing nonprofit based in Chicago that describes itself as “a team of civic technologists, trainers, researchers, election administration and data experts working to foster a more informed and engaged democracy, and helping to modernize U.S. elections.” Approximately $10 million of those funds were used by over 100 municipalities in 38 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties that applied for and received funding to cover the increased costs of administering elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds that were donated were given to support the following types of expenses:

  • Poll worker recruitment, hazard pay, and training
  • Polling place rental
  • Temporary staffing support
  • Drive-through voting
  • Equipment to process ballots and applications
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) for poll workers
  • Nonpartisan voter education from cities and counties

A majority “yes” vote for Question 1 would create a constitutional amendment banning the use of funds donated from private sources for future elections. Generally speaking, conservative groups and those that promote “election integrity”—meaning the most restrictive reading of voting laws—favor a “yes” vote on Question 1. On the opposite side of the spectrum, groups that seek to maximize the opportunity and participation of all those who are eligible to vote in our elections favor a “no” vote on Question 1.

An excellent summary of Question 1 and the positions of various groups both supporting and opposing this constitutional amendment may be found here.

Question 2

The second question, which will appear on the April 2 ballot as Question 2, reads as follows:

Question 2: “Election officials. Shall section 7 (2) of article III of the constitution be created to provide that only election officials designated by law may perform tasks in the conduct of primaries, elections, and referendums?”

Wisconsin’s statutes already provide extensive and rigorous requirements for “election officials,” a category that is more typically referred to as “poll workers” and includes chief election inspectors, election inspectors, greeters, tabulators, election registration officials, and special voting deputies. For example, among other requirements, election officials must be approved by the municipality from a list of nominees submitted by the two major political parties; must be able to read and write English; must be qualified voters in the county in which the polling place where they will serve is located; cannot be candidates on the ballot; and cannot be immediately related to any candidate on the ballot.

A majority “yes” vote for Question 2 would restrict the performance of tasks “in the conduct of primaries, elections, and referendums” only to election officials. Yet because Wisconsin Statutes currently provide that “only election officials appointed under” the two statutory provisions governing the appointment of election officials “may conduct an election,” it is unclear how the addition of this provision to the Wisconsin Constitution would enhance Wisconsin’s election laws. The Legislature has identified no specific need for this constitutional amendment, nor has it pointed to any shortcoming of the present statutory restrictions on who may serve as an election official. Consequently, it appears that the inclusion of this question on the ballot is an attempt to enshrine in the Constitution provisions that exist now only in statutes, which would make them much more difficult to change should political control of the legislature and the legislative process shift from its current state.

As with Question 1, conservative and “election integrity” groups favor a “yes” vote on Question 2, whereas groups that seek to expand access to and participation in voting (such as Common Cause Wisconsin) favor a “no” vote on Question 2. There is a concern among some pro-democracy groups that amending the Constitution to include the provision reflected in Question 2 might lead to efforts to stifle current practices that enhance voter participation. Further information regarding this constitutional amendment may be found here.


With this excellent information, we hope you will better understand the constitutional amendment questions on the April 2nd ballot and will be able to make an informed decision as to whether or not Wisconsinites should amend the state constitution and add these provisions. We believe we should not do so.

On Wisconsin. Forward!