Early indications are that more Rock County residents will vote in the upcoming elections than ever before.
Rock County Clerk Lisa Tollefson said about 76,000 people voted in the last presidential election in 2016, but the record is 81,509, in 2012.
“I think we’re going to be over that,” she said.
Tollefson gets the feeling 2020 will be a record because of all the questions her office is getting from voters. She said she’s making sure she has enough ballots to handle a record turnout
“There’s a lot more people engaged in this election than I think there were in 2016,” Tollefson said.
Janesville City Clerk-Treasurer Dave Godek also thinks a record is possible. His data, going back to 2000, shows the city’s highest turnout was 32,605, also in 2012.
That was the year of the June 5 gubernatorial recall election, Godek noted. A lot of people registered to vote in June and were primed for the November vote.
About 29,000 Janesville residents voted in the 2016 presidential election.
The record turnout could come despite coronavirus fears, which are prompting many voters to order absentee ballots.
As of Friday, Godek said his office had sent out 14,378 absentee ballots, and 6,500 voters had returned them.
Godek expects about 25,000 residents will bypass the polls and vote absentee, most by mail-in ballots but some using the in-person absentee voting, often called early voting.
Countywide, nearly 30,000 absentee ballots had been received as of Thursday, Tollefson said. That compares with a total of 19,500 in 2016. Tollefson expects more than 50,000 by Election Day.
President Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by fewer than 23,000 votes, so the parties have lavished attention on the state this time.
“So it’s definitely on people’s minds, and people are pretty passionate on both sides of the aisle right now, so I’m expecting it’s going to be around an all-time high,” Godek said.
Godek also is seeing a surge in voter registrations, 2,300 in September alone. He’s not sure, however, if some of those registrations are from people who would have registered on Election Day in the past but must register earlier if they want to vote absentee.
Godek thinks the myvote.wi.gov website, which is fairly new, is encouraging more and more people to do their voting business online.
“Also part of it is the city did a good job of communicating with residents that the earlier you get things done, the better it is for you as a voter, and the easier it is for our staff and poll workers. I think that message has gotten out to the community,” Godek said.
In other voting news:
With so few people voting on Election Day, Janesville will stick to just four polling places Nov. 3, as it did in the April and August elections. They are the former Sears store at the newly named Uptown Janesville, the Rock County Job Center, City Hall and Hedberg Public Library.
Voters statewide can find their polling place online at myvote.wi.gov or by calling their town, village or city clerk.
The town of Beloit plans to open just one location instead of the usual three, Tollefson said.
The myvote.wi.gov website allows voters to check their registration status, register, see all the races on their ballot, change their address if they have moved, order an absentee ballot and track the ballot’s progress.
Godek said the most common absentee-voting mistakes are a failure to include a signature or address of the witness on the ballot envelope.
He encourages voters to include an email address or phone number on their envelopes so his staff can contact them to correct any mistakes. Otherwise, the only option is to contact the voter by mail, so correcting mistakes in time will become impossible by Oct. 29 or 30 without a faster way to communicate, Godek said.
Lack of a signature or address invalidates the ballot.
Absentee in-person voting, which gained popularity in the last presidential election, is limited to two weeks before the election. It begins Oct. 20 in Janesville.
Voters choosing this option will do so at City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St. Voters should enter at the door on Wall Street. Hours will be 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. except on the last day, Oct. 30, when hours are extended to 5 p.m.
Voters in other municipalities should check with their town, village or city clerk for in-person voting times. Godek expects fewer in-person voters than in 2016.
Godek figures 5,000 to 8,000 residents will vote in person/absentee this year, compared to about 20,000 in 2016.
Godek feels good about having enough poll workers. This has been a concern this year because so many older poll workers are staying home to protect their health.
Godek sent out about 400 letters asking past poll workers if they will be available Nov. 3. He thinks he’ll need about 225, some of whom will work half days. Thirty to 40 of the workers will be assigned to count absentee ballots.
Wisconsin requires absentee ballot envelopes to be opened and the ballots fed into the counting machines on Election Day, so 30 to 40 poll workers will be doing that at Janesville City Hall.
Janesville and Beloit count their absentee ballots at a central location. Other jurisdictions count them at polling places.
The question of whether late-arriving absentee ballots will be counted after Nov. 3 remains unsettled. It’s possible a recent court ruling will be appealed.
Those who get their ballots in early won’t have to worry about that.
A small group of activists marched from Beloit to Janesville on Saturday to add their voices to others across the country upset at the death Breonna Taylor at the hands of Louisville, Kentucky, police.
Fourteen young and racially diverse marchers chanted on the last leg of the march on Janesville’s West Court Street.
“Black lives!” shouted organizer Yusuf Adama into a bullhorn.
“Matter!” the marchers responded.
“Say her name!” he yelled.
They wore masks and held onto a rope to help them keep their distance. Some said they developed blisters along the way.
The event was organized by Showing Up for Racial Justice, a national organization with a Beloit chapter.
Taylor died after suffering multiple gunshot wounds when police burst into her apartment March 13 as they executed a search warrant in a drug case. Many facts of the case are in dispute, but news reports say there was no indication Taylor, an emergency room technician, was involved in drug trafficking.
The city of Louisville paid Taylor’s family $12 million and promised police reforms. No officer faces charges for Taylor’s death.
The event started with about 40 marchers and supporters in Beloit. Thirteen supporters joined the marchers at their destination, the Rock County Courthouse. A sheriff’s deputy parked nearby. Beloit police and deputies had accompanied them for parts of the journey, marchers said.
Adama thanked the officers as he spoke to the marchers. He also thanked the marchers and said it’s a big deal that they took time from their lives to make a statement.
“Breonna Taylor was a tragedy. It was one of the saddest things I’ve witnessed in my life,” Adama said.
“I think it’s ridiculous that it’s 2020, and we’ve still got to deal with these issues, right?” Adama said.
Adama called for body camera footage to be publicly available and for a ban on police bursting into homes unannounced. He urged marchers to pay attention to local issues and to vote.
The marchers said they heard from supporters but also detractors along the way. Some people shouted “All lives matter!” Some raised middle fingers.
One man flying a Trump flag repeatedly revved his engine, said Dexter Roatch, a UW-Whitewater student.
The man with the flag returned later with three Trump flags on his vehicle.
Marcher Cristian Martinez, a Beloit College student, said Rock County doesn’t have the problems of tensions between people of color and police, but those problems can be seen close by, in places such as Rockford, Illinois, and Kenosha and around the country, and it’s important to talk about them.
Beloit College student Paige Clark said she hoped demonstrations such as this one can make a difference.
“I’m a pessimistic person, but I feel like the trajectory that were going, I don’t think anyone can stop this,” Clark said.
Clark said people her age grew up in traumatic times, with school shootings, the Great Recession and violence against their Black brothers and sisters, “and now that we are grown enough to actually make a difference both physically and through the election, I feel like there is going to be some sort of wave of progressive policies being put forward.”
Linda Curfman proudly held her poster of President Trump, showing it to cars passing on Centerway.
The Evansville woman was one of several people holding flags and signs and receiving appreciative honks—and a few middle fingers—before the “Wheelin’ for Trump” parade started Sunday.
Curfman glowed when asked about Trump but said she was worried about him as he remained hospitalized with COVID-19.
“I am very hopeful. And he’s such a fighter that I know he’s going to beat this and come out even stronger,” she said.
Curfman said she likes Trump, “Because he’s pro-life, he loves America, he loves the military—what else? He wants to make the economy good, he wants to make America great. He wants to make America safe.”
Curfman and her friend Sharon Haak of Milton didn’t wear masks and were often closer than 6 feet to others. They said they feel safe without masks when they are outdoors.
At one point in the rally, about 11 people in the crowd of 70 could be seen wearing masks.
Curfman and Haak met in 2014 when Curfman was going door to door for former Gov. Scott Walker.
“We agree on everything,” Curfman said.
“There were very few—that I knew of—Republicans in Milton-Janesville. I just wouldn’t let her go. She was my friend forever,” Haak said.
The event was organized by South-Central Trump Victory, which comprises Dodge, Jefferson, Walworth, Rock and Green counties.
Paraders drove pickup trucks and cars of various descriptions and makes, including some restored antiques, and three motorcycles.
They planned to drive south to Beloit on Highway 51 and then take Interstate 90/39 north to Newville, turning there onto Highway 51 through Edgerton and back to the Trump Victory Janesville field office, 19 N. High St.
Kevin Pope of Edgerton said he thinks Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden would take the country down the wrong path.
“The whole Democratic establishment, it seems like they’re trying to destroy our country,” Pope said,
Asked how he sees the threat from Democrats, Pope mentioned defunding police, which Biden rejects, and Democratic mayors and governors allowing what he sees as “rioting and looting and so-called peaceful protests, and it’s pretty much a joke.”
Pope also sees threats in prominent Democrats: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and a group of progressives that includes Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Pope said he wasn’t worried about Trump’s health, as he seems in good hands, but he worried about Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and New Jersey’s former Gov. Chris Christie.
Pope said it “seems kind of odd” that only prominent Republicans have recently tested positive for the virus.
Steven Ross of Janesville said he has been going door to door, using a list of Republicans, educating them on how to vote.
A veteran sporting an 82nd Airborne cap, Ross said he believes the soul of America is at stake.
“I worry about how the extreme left and the socialists may have an influence on Biden if he becomes president,” Ross said.
Ross said he sees demonstrators in Madison tearing down the statute of a Civil War colonel who fought to free slaves, and he thinks they don’t understand American history and system.
“I encourage everybody to vote, no matter who they vote for,” Ross said. “Men and women died for that freedom that we have here today, that we can vote, and without threat of violence ... Peaceful protest is definitely a right that we have, but when it comes to burning or destroying other people’s property or endangering—and in some cases people died—I’m very concerned about that.”
The Trump supporters flew American flags, back-the-police flags and at least one Women for Trump flag. Several small flags showed Trump as a bare-chested Rambo with the slogan “No more b-------.”
“It’s ever-more important that we’re out here supporting him (Trump) and showing him that he has our support every single day, no matter what,” said Leslie Hubert, field organizer for the Trump campaign, told the crowd. “And from door knocking with volunteers to just coming to rallies like this and also supporting our local candidates as well, we’re showing the president that he’s awesome and that we’re definitely going to be there for him all the way through, and that we have absolute confidence in him.”
“Too many times over the last few months we’ve seen our sports—NFL, MLB, all that—kind of push aside the idea of what the Star Spangled Banner means to America and to us,” Hubert said in introducing the national anthem.
Rep. Amy Loudenbeck spoke to the crowd about the Trump Victory headquarters behind her, saying, “This is sort of Ground Zero for what we are going to be doing for the next 30 days, whatever it takes to keep the momentum that we have going now and to build that momentum and share your enthusiasm for a president that loves America more than we could ever appreciate and thank him for. So keep the president and the first lady in your thoughts and prayers, please, and stay safe and enjoy your day.”
Robert T. “Bob” Altmann
Daryl Lee Elmer
Errett E. Elmer
Gwendolyn B. “Gwen” Footit
Claudia R. (Gifford) Hansen
Kristine M. Johnson
Bradley Allan Kessler
Frederick Jacob Kummer
Rosemary A. (Simonson) “Rosebud” Phillips
Iona Grace Timm
Democratic congressman Mark Pocan is seeking a fifth term representing the 2nd Congressional District in the House of Representatives.
Peter Theron, a Republican from Madison, is challenging Pocan, as he has done twice in the past.
The 2nd District includes Dane and Green counties and more than half of Rock County, including Beloit but excluding most of Janesville.
The winner in the Nov. 3 election will serve two years in the House.
Pocan, known for his liberal views, is co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Theron said he is running “to solve problems and restore civility.”
The candidates responded to these questions. Responses were edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: What are the top two issues for 2nd District residents, and how would you address them?
Pocan: “COVID-19 and its impact on their health and our economy. I have long called for the president to utilize the full might of the federal government through the Defense Production Act and produce stockpiles of personal protective equipment and testing materials for every state.
“We need to expand our testing, continue to wear masks in public and social distance, and we need to build out our contact-tracing program across the state. I think taking a strong health care-focused approached to COVID-19 is the only way for our economy to fully reopen safely sooner. The Senate must also pass the HEROES Act we passed in the House to provide continued assistance to families, extend unemployment aid and eviction moratoriums, provide state and local government with integral funding and support for small businesses.”
Theron: “The top issue is law and order. The second issue is the economy.
“I will address law and order by following the example of 1st Congressional District Rep. Bryan Steil. After the Kenosha riots, he denounced the violence, called the White House and connected local leaders with the president. When the National Guard arrived, the riots, looting and arson stopped.
“President Donald Trump has promised to further improve the economy. This term he has kept his promises. I look forward to working with him in his second term.”
Q: If a coronavirus vaccine is successfully deployed in the months ahead, what next steps should the federal government take?
Pocan: “The federal government should heed the guidance of medical and scientific experts and ensure any vaccine is put through rigorous testing before being deployed. Once we can ensure its safety, it should be mass produced and made widely available to every person in this country at no cost. We need to follow medical advice on how to prioritize the distribution.”
Theron: “By the time the next Congress is sworn in, COVID-19 will be only a memory. The few cases that occur will be controlled by drugs, such as the HCQ (hydroxychloroquine) cocktail.
“I will convene a conference of medical, government, and private sector people to gather lessons learned from our unpreparedness for this pandemic. Areas for discussion will include hospital preparedness, medical staff training, government medical-supply reserves, procedures for health-emergency declarations, limits on executive authority without reviews by elected officials, public-sector reserve funds for emergencies, status reporting to the public, … and development of an economy better prepared to absorb economic shocks such as lockdowns and supply disruptions.”
Q: What should healing in the wake of the Kenosha unrest over a black man shot by a white police officer look like? Discuss your thoughts on the charge of “systemic racism” in the United States.
Pocan: “Our healing should be rooted in a call for justice for those murdered and unity for communities reeling from that loss. Healing looks like communities and families seeing the federal government take decisive action to re-imagine public safety and create nationwide standards to hold police accountable for this epidemic of police violence.
“Systemic racism is entrenched in this country’s institutions from the legacy of slavery to Jim Crow and red-lining. This nation has long codified racism into law. It will take intentional institutional change to reverse those law’s generational effects.”
Theron: “I noticed that racial tensions began to build under the eight years of the prior presidential administration. …
“There are at least five causes: The last administration emphasized confrontation and division. The other party emphasizes class divisions among citizens as a political strategy. … The other party tolerates and sometimes encourages disorder and even rioting to ‘right wrongs.’ Democrats are bad for cities. Their machine politics, heavy bureaucracies, high taxes and state and federal programs have not worked. … (And) much of the racism that exists is in the cities run by this same political party.
Q: President Trump has been accused of making disparaging remarks about American service members who died in war. What is your response?
Pocan: “Donald Trump has long tried and failed to convince the American people that he adequately cares about our nation’s troops and veterans. This latest news that he called fallen soldiers ‘losers’ and ‘suckers’ is not only disrespectful, but it shows an out-of-touch elected official.”
Theron: “As with other anonymous accusations against President Trump, these fell apart almost immediately. They are most notable for the coordination they exposed between the Democrats and the establishment media, with a Democrat attack ad dropping within hours of the publication of the anonymously sourced article.”
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