Five things to know about absentee voting in Rock and Walworth counties

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Andrea Behling
Sunday, July 27, 2014

Absentee voting done in-person at the municipal clerk's office for the Aug. 12 partisan primary opens at 8 a.m. Monday, July 28, for Walworth and Rock counties.

In the 2012 partisan primary, Rock County issued 2,530 absentee ballots and counted 2,315, according to the Government Accountability Board. Walworth County issued 1,922 and counted 1,370, according to the board.

Here are five things to know if you plan to place an absentee vote.

1. Pick a party. In a partisan primary, voters can only vote within one party. Rock County rejects a lot of absentee ballots in the August primary elections because of cross voting, Rock County Clerk Lori Stottler said. Voters must be careful to pick a party, or their choices might not count when processed on election day, she said.

“That's just something you need to know as a voter,” Stottler said.

2. Know the deadlines. The last day to request an absentee ballot in-person is 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8. Requests by mail need to be in by 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7. Clerks are required by law to be available on those days to take requests, Stottler said. Ballot requests through the mail opened June 26.

“I take that deadline very seriously,” Stottler said.

3. Absentee voting is costly. Envelopes, postage, forms and transporting ballots on Election Day all make absentee voting more expensive for municipalities.

“It can get really costly for smaller municipalities looking to fix roads or build a new fire station,” Stottler said.

Wisconsin voters don't need an excuse to place an absentee vote, but Stottler said she hopes voters see the bigger picture and go to the polls on Election Day if they're able.

4. The ballot is complicated. Absentee voting allows little room for error, especially with a couple laws passed recently, Stottler said. One law passed in the 2013-15 legislative session prohibits clerks from sending ballots back to voters if they find mistakes. Voters can go to the office if they know they've made mistakes, but clerks are not allowed to send anything back to voters if there are errors, Stottler said.

In-person absentee voting is probably the best option for those who can't make it on Election Day, Stottler said. The clerk is able to make sure the ballot is qualified and signed properly, she said.

If you're sending your ballot by mail, there's many variables, and there's no guarantee a correct vote will be counted in time when you're close to election, Stottler said.

5. Once it's cast, you're locked in. Another state law passed nearly two years ago states that voters cannot vote at polling places on Election Day if they have already returned absentee ballots.

Before the law, voters who changed their minds were able to cast their votes on Election Day at a polling place and have their absentee ballots nullified. That's no longer the case.

“I hate it,” Stottler said about the law.

If a candidate dies before the election or does something distasteful, absentee voters can't change their votes, Stottler said.

“Does anything make sense about that?” Stottler said.

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