Governing Bodies: General FAQ 10

Does state law prescribe a particular method of governmental body voting?

Generally speaking, with a few exceptions noted below, the answer is no. State law contains very little direction on the method of voting. There are no state laws that require any specific order of voting (seniority, alphabetical, etc.). There is also no statute or case law addressing whether members of a governmental body may vote by telephone if unable to be physically present. These situations are best addressed in rules of the body. However, the League has consistently opined that members of a governmental body should not be allowed to vote by absentee ballot or by proxy. See League opinion Governing Bodies 365.

There are a few situations where state law specifies a method of voting. In cities and villages under a manager form of government, secs. 64.07(4) and 64.15 require that ayes and noes be recorded on the vote upon every ordinance and resolution. Under 62.11(3)(d), any common council member can require that a vote be taken by ayes and nays, and Wis. Stat. sec. 19.88(2) grants the same right to every member of a governmental body. The one exception is the selection of governmental body officers (president, chair, secretary, etc.) which may be done by secret ballot. Wis. Stat. sec. 62.11(3)(d) requires ayes and nays “on confirmation and on the adoption of any measure assessing or levying taxes, appropriating or disbursing money, or creating any liability or charge against the city or any fund thereof” and the recording of aye and nay votes in the journal. Board of Review determinations of objections must be by roll call vote. Wis. Stat. sec. 70.47(8)(g).