A line with over 120 individuals stretches outside the Rock County Job Center as they wait in line to vote early Tuesday morning on Janesville’s south side.

Janesville and Rock County set records for voter turnout Tuesday, eclipsing records set in 2012.

Enthusiasm for the vote was easy to find as people waited in lines.

“I’ve been waiting four years for this,” said Karly Yager, who was among the first to line up at the Rock County Job Center.

Yager and the rest of the country would have to wait into Wednesday to know the result of the presidential election. But Rock County’s totals were announced before midnight.

Joe Biden won Rock County with 54.7% to 43.5% for the president. That was no big surprise, as the county leans towards the Democrats.

Rep. Bryan Steil of Janesville won the 1{sup}st{/sup} Congressional District but didn’t win his home county. He made a good showing, however, with nearly 49% of the vote

A total of 85,617 people voted in Rock County, surpassing the previous record of 81,509, set in 2012.

About 70% of the county’s eligible voters voted.

County Clerk Lisa Tollefson said all polling places had lines at some point during the day, and registrations were higher than she expected.

Janesville reduced its polling places from 10 to four because so many voted absentee and out of concern that not enough pollworkers could be found because of coronavirus concerns.

Getting pollworkers did not turn out to be a problem, and many pollworkers appeared to be 60 or older.

About than 22,500 city residents sent in absentee ballots or voted in-person absentee in advance of the election. Countywide, nearly 50,000 voted absentee.

Concerns about trouble at the polls did not materialize, officials said.

Local law enforcement was ready to react to any trouble at the polls. City Clerk Dave Godek said they weren’t needed in Janesville.

The city of Janesville went so far as to set concrete barriers in front of all the polling places, in case someone decided to drive into them.

“Why risk it, right?” Godek said.

President Trump had encouraged followers to monitor the polls, and it’s possible four people did so in Janesville. The four were at the city’s absentee-counting operation in the gym of St. Patrick School. When asked who they represented, they said they were not authorized to say anything.

The four were required to sign in, however, and the sign-in sheet said they were from Janesville, Madison, Cambridge and Mundelein, Illinois. One of them asked Chief Inspector Diane Quade for the names on the ballots that had to be remade. She said no, that’s illegal.

Absentee ballots have to be remade if the counting machines reject them. Sometimes, the problem is not enough ink in the oval. Sometimes, a person votes for more than one candidate for an office, Quade said.

If pollworkers can figure out the voter’s intent, they remake the ballot and document the process.

The gym was a key chokepoint in vote counting. That’s where Janesville counted all its absentee ballots. Dozens of people worked throughout the day, and the count was completed sometime around 11 p.m.

Janesville bought a high-speed ballot counter for the absentee ballots, which saved a lot of time, after pollworkers figured out how to stop it from jamming. Workers figured they needed to clean it periodically, and the folded ballots had to be straightened, said Chief Inspector Diane Quade.

Two other observers at the Hedberg Public Library said they were from “Democratic Party Voter Assistance and Protection” but were not authorized to say anything else.

Election results are not yet official. The Rock County Board of Canvassers will certify the results Monday.

The other election threat was the coronavirus. Pollworkers taped X’s to the floor and the sidewalk outside polling places to indicate where people should stand to maintain 6 feet of distance. In many cases, the lines extended beyond the X’s.

Pollworkers worked behind plastic shields, wore masks and had hand sanitizer available. Most voters wore masks, although there were not required to.


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