Janesville66°

Here comes another election

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Frank Schultz
August 8, 2012

Confusing enough for ya?

Yes, another election is upon us. Wisconsin's fall partisan primary is Tuesday, which doesn't make sense because Tuesday is still summer.

More confusing might be the change in legislative district boundaries. This happens every 10 years. Districts were redrawn based on the Census 2010 and politics.

Voters will be encountering the boundary changes for the first time Tuesday. Someone who always has voted for Congress in the 1st District might now be in the 2nd District.

Or someone who was in the 43rd Assembly District might now be in the 31st District. Or the 45th District.

Both the Republican and Democratic sides have primaries in the 45th District this time, by the way, but you can vote in only one of those.

Yes, this can be confusing.

For those who need it, here's a Guide for the Perplexed, Wisconsin Primary Edition:

Q: Wait. What? I'm on vacation Tuesday!

A: No worries. Go to your municipal clerk's office now through Friday and cast an absentee ballot. After Friday, you're out of luck.

Q: Why did they change the primary date?

A: This puts Wisconsin in compliance with a federal law designed to give military and overseas voters enough time to vote by absentee ballot.

Q: I'm so SICK of elections!

A: That's not a question, but yes, this is the fifth of six elections this year. The recall elections added two to the mix. Those are over now, which is a relief to some.

Q: Why is this election important?

A: The votes will decide which candidates become the Republican or Democratic nominees in the Nov. 6 general elections. Among the contests in this area are the 2nd District congressional seat on the Democratic side and a number of Assembly races, including the Democrats' primary in the 44th District, which comprises most of Janesville.

And anyone who votes Republican can have a say in who will run for U.S. Senate this fall.

Q: I want a say in that U.S. Senate race but also in the Democratic race in my Assembly district. Can I vote for my favorite candidate in two different parties?

A: Absolutely not. Take the 44th Assembly District, for example. The Democrats are holding a four-way primary to pick their champion to unseat (they hope) Rep. Joe Knilans, R-Janesville. You can vote for one of those Democrats, but if you do, you can't vote for any Republican in any race.

Q: I don't care. I'm voting for the best person for the job.

A: That's a nice sentiment, but if you vote in more than one party's primary, all your votes will be canceled.

Q: So I'm looking at the ballot, and there's this "Party Preference" section. What's that all about?

A: This can be tricky. You're not required to connect the arrow in the Party Preference section, but if you do, it could keep your ballot from being voided. Here's how that works:

If you indicate your preference is Democratic, then only your votes for Democrats will count, even if you mistakenly vote for a Republican. And visa versa, of course.

Q: Does indicating a preference make me a registered Democrat?

A: No. Wisconsin does not require voters to register by party. If you indicate a party preference on the ballot, that will not ever be attached to your name, just as your vote is always kept secret.

Q: So, I can vote in the Republican Senate primary even though I'm a Democrat?

A: Yes. That's perfectly legal. But again, that means you can't vote in any Democratic primary on the same ballot.

Q: But then in the fall, do I have to be a Republican?

A: Of course not. On Nov. 6, you can vote for anyone you like for any office you like.

Q: Why can't I help determine the candidates for every office? It's important to me as a voter.

A: That's the way the law is written. This is why it's called a partisan primary. Each party gets to choose its own candidates.

Q: But they'll let me vote as either a Republican or as a Democrat. Doesn't that defeat the purpose of separating the parties?

A: Good point, but that doesn't change the law.

Q: What about this voter ID law I keep hearing about?

A: A photo ID is not needed for this election. The legality of that provision is still being contested in the courts. The new law does require voters to sign the poll book, and that provision is still in effect.

Q: I think I'll sit this one out. I mean, who wants to wait in line for something like this?

A: Lines will be short to nonexistent. Statewide, about 20 percent of voters are expected to turn out. If you don't vote, you are allowing that 20 percent to decide for you. It's actually less than 20 percent, because voters may vote in only one party's primary.

Q: How am I going to remember all this in the voting booth?

A: Ballots have instructions. Take your time and read them.

"Follow the instructions, and you'll be fine," said city of Janesville Clerk/Treasurer Jean Wulf.

Or ask for help from a pollworker. That's what they're there for.

Q: What a WEIRD system we have! I'm fed up! Ahhhhh!

A: Deep, cleansing breaths. After this, only one more election this year.



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