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State board overhauls absentee ballot procedures for voter convenience and polling efficiency

Skipping line at the polls may still be easy for voters and more manageable for municipal clerks if the state approves a new version of early voting this year.

The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) proposes to streamline absentee voting procedures by modifying the registration procedure. With the “no excuse” issue intact, the deadline for in-person absentee voting in the clerk’s office is moved from 5:00 p.m on the evening before election day to 5:00 p.m. on Friday.

In-person absentee voting up to 5:00 p.m. on the day before the election is still possible if the elector signs an affidavit that they will be unable to make it to the polling place on election day.

“This proposal makes the voting process much easier for us clerks,” says Kim Buchanan, a clerk for the Town of East Troy. “We got about 800 absentee ballots out of 3,000 potential electors during the last presidential election year.”

According to GAB, a growing percentage of Wisconsinites are voting in the clerk’s office before election day. Statewide, more than 21 percent cast absentee votes in the November 2008 election, compared to 6 percent in 2000.

Many clerks experienced Buchanan’s frustration when overwhelmed on election day by the increase of in-person absentee ballots the night before.

“Each applicant creates a record that requires a detailed logging procedure. And that process takes time," said Buchanan.

GAB also recommends other measures based upon testimony from dozens of local election officials: in-person absentee voting should begin 20 days before election instead of 30; more absentee voting locations in addition to the clerk’s office should be encouraged; and, a simplified ballot security envelope should replace the certification and signature requirements now in place.

With the anticipated approvals by the legislature and the governor, GAB hopes to apply the changes in time for the February, 2011 election.


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