Absentee voting still popular in April general election, but less than the beginning of the pandemic

Spring Election 2022
Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 7:09 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - While voting in person on Election Day is still the most popular option, absentee voting for many communities remains higher than pre-pandemic levels.

In Wausau, clerk Kaitlyn Bernarde said absentee voting has been up about 40% since the high in 2020. This election, it sent out about 2,700 ballots. In Weston, 786 were issued. Marshfield sent out more than a thousand this round, which is a little less than the last April election, but nearly triple the number from comparable pre-pandemic levels. Smaller communities, like Abbotsford, saw requests for absentee ballots drop back to pre-pandemic levels. It only sent out 27 absentee ballots.

All clerks NewsChannel 7 talked with said most ballots came back to the clerk’s office before Election Day.

There were changes to absentee voting this election. Voters could not drop off ballots in a drop box if their municipality had one. Clerks sent various kinds of notifications regarding that and sealed up boxes to ensure ballots were not placed there. Several clerks said some individuals tried to drop off multiple ballots, mostly couples like one spouse dropping off theirs and their partner’s ballot.

“We have had some people bring in two ballots and we ask that they, you know, if the person is out in the car, they can bring it in or else just have them return it,” Bernarde said.

Some absentee voters took their ballots directly to their local post office. While voters are asked to get their ballots in the mail at least four days before Election Day to ensure there is enough time to get to the clerk’s offices, several clerks said their local post offices kept ballots at their location rather than out through the full process, like going to Green Bay then back to the local area, and then delivered them directly to the clerk’s office.

The US Postal Service would not directly comment about that, but sent this statement about how it works with local clerks:

“The U.S. Postal Service is committed to the secure, timely delivery of the nation’s Election Mail in the 2022 election cycle.  We provide election officials with a secure, efficient and effective means to enable citizens to participate in elections. The Postal Service has a robust and tested process for proper handling and timely delivery of Election Mail.  Our processes and procedures are fully operational in Wisconsin.  We are also communicating with election officials and looking forward to a successful election in Wisconsin.”

All of the clerks who spoke with NewsChannel 7 said the process has been smooth this election. That includes Wausau, which had to issue a corrected ballot a few weeks ahead of the election.

“We have wards 3, 5, and 7 that are actually split between the Wausau School District and D.C. Everest School District, so everyone has now received the appropriate ballot if they live in those wards and should be either part of the Wausau or Everest,” Bernarde explained.

That is why some voters saw two separate ballot counting machines at the polls to adjust for the corrected ballot. She said only a handful of absentee voters handed in the first incorrect ballot. The clerk’s office encouraged voters to send in the second corrected ballot to ensure their votes counted, as the first ballot would be spoiled.

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