A 160-pound drop box, a high-speed tabulator, and communication with the local post office are among resources Janesville officials will tap while trying to deliver a smooth November election.
City Clerk-Treasurer Dave Godek gave a presentation to the city council Monday on how the November election will look in Janesville.
The Nov. 3 election is anticipated to be historic because of large increases in absentee voting prompted by the coronavirus pandemic and strong turnout to choose the next president.
Godek will receive Janesville absentee ballots this morning, and the first crop of ballots will be mailed out by the state-mandated Thursday, Sept. 17, deadline, Godek said.
So far, 12,062 people have requested absentee ballots in Janesville. Godek anticipates 25,000 will be mailed out before the election, which would be about a 77% increase from the 2016 election.
Absentee ballots, sometimes referred to as mail-in ballots, can be mailed to municipal clerks or dropped off at the clerk’s office.
Godek ordered a new, 160-pound drop box that will sit outside the Wall Street entrance of City Hall after receiving many resident requests for a larger, more secure box.
A nationwide stir was caused in recent months as President Donald Trump has questioned the integrity of absentee voting and as changes were proposed at the United States Postal Service.
Godek, responding to questions from council members, said it would be very difficult for people to vote twice in Janesville.
Notations are made in the voting books to show who has requested and who has returned absentee ballots. Poll workers have to address those notations if a person tries to vote in person after requesting a ballot in the mail, Godek said.
People who have already voted will be turned away at the polls, Godek said.
Godek has been talking with officials from the Janesville post office since May about mail-in voting. He said local postal officials are dedicated to making sure ballots make it to City Hall on time.
In August, postal workers called Godek to tell him about ballots that came into the post office late. City staff drove to the post office to pick up the ballots, Godek said.
Council member Jim Farrell asked if local results will be tabulated at a reasonable time on election night.
Absentee ballots in Wisconsin cannot be counted until Election Day, Godek said.
Rock County with state Roads to Recovery grant money bought a high-speed tabulator that will be used in Janesville to count absentee ballots quicker, Godek said.
The high-speed tabulator can county 70 ballots per minute, Godek said.
Janesville’s six central tabulators typically used for absentee ballots will be sent to other municipalities in Rock County to help speed their counts, Godek said.
Godek said he is more confident now than he was a week ago about getting local results on election night.
Last week, the state Supreme Court halted the mailing of absentee ballots as members deliberated over whether to add the Green Party presidential candidate to the ballot.
The court decided Monday afternoon to not include the candidate, which prevented Rock County from having to reprint more than 60,000 ballots.