2017 Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations
Chapter 5. Elections — general provisions; ballots and voting systems.
5.01 Scope.

Universal Citation: WI Stat § 5.01 (2017)

5.01 Scope.

(1)Construction of chs. 5 to 12 . Except as otherwise provided, chs. 5 to 12 shall be construed to give effect to the will of the electors, if that can be ascertained from the proceedings, notwithstanding informality or failure to fully comply with some of their provisions.

(2)General provisions of election laws apply. The general provisions of chs. 5 to 12 apply to all elections.

(3)Plurality shall elect.

(a) Except as provided in par. (b), in every election to choose any officer, each elector has one vote for each office unless clearly indicated otherwise. The person receiving the greatest number of legal votes for the office shall be declared elected, and the canvassers shall so determine and certify.

(b) In an election to fill a nonpartisan state office, if no names are certified to appear on the ballot, no person may be declared elected.

(4)Tie vote.

(a) If 2 or more candidates for the same office receive the greatest, but an equal number of votes, the winner shall be chosen by lot in the presence of the board of canvassers charged with the responsibility to determine the election, or in the case of an election for state or national office or metropolitan sewerage commissioner, if the commissioner is elected under s. 200.09 (11) (am), in the presence of the chairperson of the elections commission or the chairperson's designee.

(b) If, in a primary, 2 or more candidates receive an equal but not the greatest number of votes so that only one of those candidates with equal votes may advance to the final election, the choice shall similarly be made by drawing lots.

(c) The candidates may, if all those tied for the same office are present, draw for themselves. Upon refusal or absence of any of the candidates, the board of canvassers shall appoint a competent person to draw, and upon the results declare and certify the winner.

(d) If a question is submitted to the electors and an equal number of votes are cast for and against adoption, the question fails adoption.

(5)Election of governor and lieutenant governor.

(a) In every general election to choose the governor and the lieutenant governor, each elector shall have a single vote applicable to both offices. The persons receiving the greatest number of legal votes cast jointly for them for governor and lieutenant governor shall be declared elected, and the canvassers shall so determine and certify.

(b) In case 2 or more slates have an equal and the highest number of votes for governor and lieutenant governor, the 2 houses of the legislature shall at the next annual session choose by joint ballot one of the slates so having an equal and the highest number of votes for governor and lieutenant governor.

History: 1979 c. 89; 1983 a. 484; 1985 a. 304; 1997 a. 27; 1999 a. 150 s. 672; 1999 a. 182; 2015 a. 118.

The supreme court has quite consistently construed the provisions of election statutes as directory rather than mandatory so as to preserve the will of the elector. Lanser v. Koconis, 62 Wis. 2d 86, 214 N.W.2d 425 (1974).

When 40 percent of registered voters were denied ballots in an election to remove a county seat, the election was set aside even though the outcome probably was not affected. McNally v. Tollander, 100 Wis. 2d 490, 302 N.W.2d 440 (1981).

Sub. (1) applies only after an election has been held and the will of the people manifested. City of Chippewa Falls v. Town Of Hallie, 231 Wis. 2d 85, 604 N.W.2d 300 (Ct. App. 1999), 99-0832.

Only substantial violations of the election law should operate to vacate an election. Carlson v. Oconto County Board of Canvassers, 2001 WI App 20, 240 Wis. 2d 438, 623 N.W.2d 195, 00-1788.

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