Area municipal clerks are seeing a jump in requests for mailed absentee ballots, thanks to efforts by special interest groups to make sure people don’t miss out on the Aug. 9 Senate election.
In that rare recall election, Republican Sen. Dan Kapanke will face Democratic challenger Jennifer Shilling, a five-term state Assembly member who last week won a primary over Republican James Smith, who ran as a Democrat to give Kapanke more time to campaign.
“We’ve got so many people going door to door, and they’re kind of strong-arming people into applying for an absentee ballot,” said West Salem Village Administrator/Clerk Teresa Schnitzler.
Schnitzler and Holland Town Clerk Marilyn Pedretti both said they know of people who signed up to receive an absentee ballot by mail only to get rid of a pushy campaigner and with no intention of mailing back the ballot.
Pedretti said it costs $1.52 to mail out an absentee ballot.
While she emphasizes that people should be able to have that option, she said the costs add up when people have those ballots mailed and don’t use them.
“I want people to realize that it does cost money,” Pedretti said.
Many times, Schnitzler said, the absentee ballot applications from the campaigners are coming in from people not even registered to vote, which means the clerks’ offices have to try to contact those people by phone or by mail to alert them of the need to register before receiving an absentee ballot. That means additional costs, too.
Wisconsin Government Accountability Board spokesman Reid Magney said it’s a good idea for people to contact their clerks directly to obtain an absentee ballot. There have been cases, he said, where ballot requests have been sent to the wrong clerk.
Magney said people can call clerks’ offices and ask them to mail them applications for absentee ballots.
Voters also can email a request to the clerks for an absentee
People can cast absentee votes in person starting Monday, July 25, and they have until the clerks’ offices close on Friday, Aug. 5, to vote absentee in person.
In the past, voters had up to 30 days before an election to cast an absentee ballot, but that was changed as part of the Republican-backed voter photo ID bill that Walker signed into law.
The law goes into full effect next February and will require voters to present a photo ID to poll workers before they will be allowed to vote.
Voters who don’t have ID with them on Election Day will be allowed to cast provisional ballots that will be tossed out if the voter doesn’t come back and present proper ID within the specified time.
Magney said details are still being worked out about what the new law will mean for absentee votes that are mailed in.
He said it’s still unclear whether voters will be required to send in a photocopy of an acceptable ID with every ballot.
Voters applying by mail for absentee ballots have three options: They can request a ballot just for one election; they can request a ballot for all elections remaining in the calendar year; and they can request an absentee ballot for every future election if they certify that they can’t come to the polls because of age, infirmity, illness or disability.