Bill to make counting absentee ballots easier awaits vote from Wis. Assembly and Senate

Published: Dec. 20, 2019 at 10:09 PM CST
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While many of us are counting down the days until Christmas, county and municipal clerks are counting down the days until the spring and fall 2020 elections.

Clerks are preparing for high voter turnout on Election Day, but are preparing for a number of electors to vote with absentee ballots.

“They changed the law allowing anyone to vote by absentee ballot back in about 2000, but what they never expected was to have this high volume,” said Sandy Juno, Brown County clerk.

In November of 2016, Juno says there were more than 43,000 absentee ballots cast in the county, and every year that number keeps growing.

“They're anticipating in the next presidential election, 1 million absentee ballots be cast in the state,” said Juno.

In response, clerks hope the state legislature passes a bill that would make casting an absentee ballot more streamlined and secure.

“Right now, when you're doing an envelope process, those ballots are handled many, many times by many, many different people. There's really not security on how those ballots are transported from one place to the next,” said Juno.

The bill would allow the elector to feed their ballot into the tabulator.

Right now the ballots are sealed and placed in a vault until Election Day, then a poll worker has to insert the ballot into the tabulator manually.

Juno said one advantage to having the elector cast their own ballot is to correct any errors made.

“The idea of this bill is, once an elector chooses to vote absentee and put it directly into the tabulator, there's no way anyone would be able to tamper with it because your record is created,” said Juno.

Otherwise, if a mistake is made on an absentee ballot, often times the vote is not counted.

Clerks hope the state assembly and senate will vote on the bill early enough to implement the process for the fall elections.

In the meantime, they're busy making sure everything is in place for the spring elections.

“We just attended election security training with the Wisconsin Elections Commission to make sure we are prepared for the high volume,” said De Pere City Clerk, Carey Danen.

De Pere is expecting a large turnout in the spring due to four vacant city council seats, the Mayor’s seat, and the democratic primary.

“We do have at least one candidate who has filed for every candidate position accept for district 3 at this point,” said Danen.

The deadline to file paperwork for candidacy is January 7.

If no one runs, there could be a write-in candidate, or the Mayor would appoint someone to the seat.

Some municipalities, such as Green Bay, are still in need of poll workers.

Clerks are also encouraging voters to make sure they are registered to vote prior to Election Day to make the process faster and easier, but you can register to vote on Election Day. You will also need to bring a valid ID to the polls.