Western Kenosha County went big for absentee voting in April 7 election

Election officials throughout Wisconsin urged people planning to vote in the April 7 presidential preference primary and spring non-partisan election to use the absentee voting process, due to COVID-19 spread concerns.

Typically, municipal clerks here said they would expect in-person voting to far outweigh absentee votes. As an example, Bristol village Clerk Amy Klemko said a spring election in her village could be between 400 and 600 voters with between 80 to 100 of those being absentees, depending on whether there were contested local contests.

But for the April 7 election, voters appeared to be heeding the call to vote absentee.

Here is a sampling of numbers:

Bristol — 1,008 absentee and 554 vote in person on election day.

Salem Lakes — Early in person absentee voters 651; absentee mailed ballots received 1,598; in-person voters on election day 970.

Paddock Lake — 476 absentee ballots; 209 people voted at the polls.

Wheatland — In-person 262; absentee 676.

Randall — 542 absentee ballots and 293 in person.

Twin Lakes — 400 in person absentee ballots, with a total of 777 absentee ballots cast in the election

Brighton — 282 processed absentee ballots and 191 in person ballots were cast.

“I thought the absentee voting worked well,” said Paddock Lake village Clerk Michelle Shramek. “The residents of the village seemed to understand the process and we only had a couple that we had to help with getting witness signatures.”

But what about the presidential election in November? Clerks here concede that election is the generally the busiest one on their calendar.

In antiicpation that absentee voting could again be more used than in the past, several of the local clerks mentioned favoring streamlining absentee ballot processing.

One proposal to change that is a bill in the state legislature, AB 230. This would allow certified municipalities to allow in-person absentee voters to feed their in-person absentee ballot into the electronic voting machine at the clerk’s office, rather than sealing the ballot in an envelope that is opened on Election Day, explained Wheatland town Clerk Sheila Siegler. Though ballots under this process would be cast directly into an electronic voting machine, the votes are not tabulated until Election Day. The bill’s current status is passed by the Assembly, but awaiting scheduling in the Senate.

“It would be optional for municipalities to use but seems so much more efficient that the current system,” Siegler said.

The most radical change would be an all-mail election.

Twin Lakes village Administrator/Clerk Laura Roesslein said “I think an all-mail election is something that the state should work towards. However, I don’t know if it would be possible for the November election.”

Regardless, the November election likely won’t be the same as past presidential elections in how people here vote.

“We did appreciate the fact that most of the voters in Paddock Lake took advantage of requesting absentee ballots and not coming to vote in person,” Shramek said. “Most signed up to receive ballots for the rest of the year by mail, so this will also help at the fall election.”


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