Submitted by at least 29 county clerks from around Wisconsin (listed below)
Republican lawmakers are floating the idea of adding an election in 2020 between the February primary election and the April election during a lame duck session in the coming weeks. They will be extremely hard-pressed to find a county clerk, Republican and Democratic alike, or a nonpartisan municipal clerk, who thinks this is a good policy change, or frankly, even doable.
Currently, the presidential primary race is on a consolidated spring election ballot. Election software is easily able to handle the programming of the partisan/nonpartisan combination. From a voter standpoint, the ballot has dedicated instructions for each section. Importantly, this consolidated ballot also condenses the many costs and complicated procedures of administering an election from the creation of the ballot to the canvassing of the last ward.
Elections require weeks of intense work by all levels of government. Municipal clerks are charged with hiring and training poll workers (who would need to be available to work, yet, another election), administering absentee balloting, including the increasingly popular in-person absentee, registering voters, securing polling locations, holding a public test of voting equipment, publishing many election notices and the list goes on. Moreover, voter registration deadlines, absentee ballot deadlines, UOCAVA (military and overseas) absentee ballot deadlines are all election-specific deadlines. Having a March and April election with intersecting deadlines would be highly confusing to voters and needlessly onerous for Wisconsin’s 1,852 municipal clerks.
At the county level, the more rural and less resource-intense counties, often aid in these municipal procedures, as they are contracted by municipalities to provide technological support with voter registration and absentee balloting tasks. These counties would likely need to hire staff specifically for this additional work.
In addition, many counties – generally, larger ones – code our own election equipment along with creating, printing and delivering the ballots – all in time for absentee balloting. We would certainly have to purchase additional memory devices for tabulators because one election’s results and ballot images would still be on one set of memory devices, while we would need to be programming and testing for the next election. While tabulators are used only on Election Day, accessible ballot marking machines, like the ExpressVote and AutoMARK, are used during in-person absentee voting as well. These also use election-specific memory cards. Right now, I don’t know how one accessible machine would support two simultaneous election cycles.
Another real concern is not enough time. Counties use hundreds of tabulators each election, all which read polling-place specific ballots, all which are tested by the county and municipality. There is simply not enough time to interject another election between the already-short timeline between the February Primary and the April Election.
Asking municipal and county clerks to engage in overlapping elections – February to March to April – is extremely unwise from security and procedural perspectives. Finally, there is the overall price tag of any election. Past spring elections have cost around $7 million statewide. A much larger amount would be needed to carry out two elections in the same period. It would be an unfunded mandate which would waste taxpayer money, create logistical nightmares for clerks and greatly confuse voters.
Cheryl Kroening, Adams County Clerk (acting)
Heather Schutte, Ashland County Clerk
Sandy Juno, Brown County Clerk
Christina Jensen, Clark County Clerk
Scott McDonell, Dane County Clerk
Karen Gibson, Dodge County Clerk
Jill M. Lau, Door County Clerk
Sue Sandvick, Douglass County Clerk
Janet K Loomis, Eau Claire County Clerk
Lisa Freiberg, Fond du Lac County Clerk
Linda Gebhard, Grant County Clerk
Mike Doyle, Green County Clerk
Jamie Annoye, Kewaunee County Clerk
Ginny Dankmeyer, LaCrosse County Clerk
Judy Nagel, Langlade County Clerk
Chris Marlowe, Lincoln County Clerk
Gary Sorensen, Marquette County Clerk
George L. Christenson, Milwaukee County Clerk
Julianne B. Winkelhorst, Ozaukee County Clerk
Audrey Bauer, Pepin County Clerk
Jamie Feuerhelm, Pierce County Clerk
Carol Williamson, Sawyer County
Pamela Schmidt, Shawano County Clerk
Cindy Campbell, St. Croix County Clerk
Jean Gottwald, Price County Clerk
Megan Kapp, Waushara County Clerk
Lolita Olson, Washburn County Clerk
Kathleen Novack, Waukesha County Clerk
Sue Ertmer, Winnebago County Clerk