When voting, read to avoid voting confusion

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Sunday, May 6, 2012
— It's rare that government feels the need to yell at us, but voting-booth instructions are an exception, apparently.

"You may vote for only ONE candidate per office!"

That shout is from the instructions atop Tuesday's primary election ballot.

"If you vote for more than ONE candidate per office, NO votes will be counted for that office," the instructions continue.

The statewide primaries will decide who runs in the June 5 recall elections. Many areas, such as Rock and Walworth counties, will see Republican and Democratic primaries only for governor and lieutenant governor. Other parts of the state will have additional recall primaries for state Senate races.

The ballots continue in their strident tone, stating: "You may vote only ONCE for the Office of Governor."

Despite the capital letters and exclamation points, lots of voters don't get the message. About 4 percent of Rock County voters—more than 1,200—tried to cast ballots they had filled out incorrectly April 3, Rock County Clerk Lori Stottler said. In some areas, the mis-voting was as high as 10 percent.

The vast majority of the problems came when someone voted in both the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries.

"They wanted to vote for Romney and Obama," Stottler said.

Lucky for them, the optical scanners that record the votes spit back those ballots, and the law allows a voter to try it again—as many as three times.

That's what most if not all of those voters did, Stottler said.

The recall primary is a different animal, however, and Stottler is worried people might cast votes they did not intend to cast.

So, if you've never voted before or if you just have a hard time figuring out what to do in a voting booth, please check if you are asking yourself any of the following questions:

Q: I want to choose both the Republican and the Democrat that I want to face off on June 5. Can I do that?
A: No. If you vote for a Democrat to be that party's candidate, you may not vote for a Republican. If you vote for a Republican, you can't vote for a Democrat. The voting machine will reject your ballot if you do that, and you'll have to vote again.
Q: But I heard I could do that.
A: What you might have heard was that you can vote for a Democrat for lieutenant governor, for example, and then a Republican for governor. But you may not vote for both parties in the same race.
Q: The Republican ticket is a done deal—it'll be Walker all the way, right? So I can stay home?
A: Not necessarily. Walker has an opponent named Arthur Kohl-Riggs. Kohl-Riggs has every legal right to be chosen as the Republican standard bearer, even though he reportedly is associated with the anti-Walker protest movement.
Q: Who is Gladys Huber?
A: Huber is a "false Democrat." The Republicans decided to run these candidates in every recall race so that all the recalls would have primaries on the same date. Huber is listed first among the five Democratic choices, by luck of the draw.

There's also a false Democrat running for lieutenant governor, Isaac Weix. He's also listed first on the ballot, also based on a random drawing.

To be doubly clear, Huber and Weix are Republicans running as Democrats.

Q: So, if I vote for someone that I didn't intend to vote for, can I cast a new ballot?
A: Yes and no. If you vote for the wrong person and bring your ballot to a poll worker, you are allowed a fresh ballot. However, once the machine has swallowed your ballot, there's no going back.
Q: OK, but I get in the voting booth, and I get confused. What should I do?
A: "The most important piece of advice I could give is, the easiest way to make sure you are getting this right for yourself is to read the instructions on the ballot," said Walworth County Clerk Kimberly Bushey. And if you're still unsure, "there are people there to assist you, Bushey said. "The election inspectors (poll workers) are there to help."
Q: What about the new voter ID law? Do I need a photo ID card?
A: No. Voters were required to show a photo ID in the February primary, but a court injunction has stopped that practice. The courts eventually will rule whether the photo-ID rule is legal, but they're not expected to rule until after the June 5 elections.
Q: I haven't voted since last year, and I heard that my old polling place might not be where I'm supposed to vote.
A: That's very possible. Check with your local municipal clerk or go online to vpa.wi.gov.

Last updated: 8:39 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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