Fall primary now takes place in August
JANESVILLE Once again, there's proof that 2012 is the Year of Voting Changes.
Case in point: the Aug. 14 primary election.
What's different this time: The primary election is Aug. 14 instead of mid-September, as it had been for 66 years.
The primary date was moved up so the state could comply with a federal law aimed at giving military and overseas voters enough time to cast their absentee ballots.
August is a time that many families take trips, so absentee voting could be their only chance to vote.
"If you're going to be on vacation on Aug. 14, you should be thinking about that right now," Walworth County Clerk Kimberly Bushey said.
Absentee voting in municipal clerks' offices—don't go to the courthouse—began Monday and continues through Friday, Aug. 10.
This is a partisan primary election in which voters determine who will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Voters may vote for candidates in one party only, and that confuses some people, said Janesville Clerk/Treasurer Jean Wulf.
"Confusion about crossover voting is one of the biggest issues poll workers face during partisan primaries," according to a state Government Accountability Board news release.
Some people like to vote for "the best man, or the best woman," said Rock County Clerk Lori Stottler, but in a partisan primary, choices are limited.
For example, voters who want to choose one of the four Democrats to be their party's candidate in the 44th Assembly District must vote for Democrats only.
They can't vote for Democrats in an Assembly race, for example, and then vote in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.
If you vote for a Republican in one election and a Democrat in another, your ballot doesn't count unless you fill in the arrow indicating a party preference. If you do that, then only your votes in that party will be counted.
Voters who go to the polls Aug. 14 will know right away if they make mistakes in voting across parties. The vote-counting machines will spit out those ballots. The errant voters would have two more tries to correct their errors.
Not so for absentee voters.
Absentee voters seal their votes in envelopes. Envelopes on Election Day will be taken to the polls, where poll workers will feed them into the machines. The machines will spit out invalid ballots, but it's impossible at that point for absentee voters to correct their mistakes, Wulf said.
The same goes for absentee ballots that voters request by mail.
Here are some other things voters should keep in mind:
-- Voters will contend with new boundaries for state Assembly and Senate districts and for congressional districts. To find the districts where you're located, check out the maps in the Gazette's online election section at gazettextra.com/elections or go to the state voter-access website, vpa.wi.gov.
One area of possible confusion is Janesville, where four candidates are vying for the chance to represent the Democrats in the 44th Assembly District race. Campaign signs have sprouted all over town.
With all those signs, some voters in northeastern Janesville might think they're in the 44th, when actually they're in the 31st, Wulf said.
City of Janesville wards 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, and 29 are in the 31st Assembly District.
There is no primary in the 31st in any party.
-- For those who like to write in names, there's another potential problem, Stottler said. If you vote in the Republican primary but write in a Democrat who is listed elsewhere on the ballot in a Republican race, that ballot would be disqualified.
The voting machine would not spit your ballot back to you, however, so you'd get no second chance.
However, if you mark Republican in the party-preference section at the top left corner of the ballot, your Republican votes would be preserved, while your Democratic write-in would not, Stottler said.
Poll workers review all ballots at the end of the night and weed out the invalid ballots, Stottler said.
-- There's no presidential primary. Someone will invariably ask poll workers about that. That primary was in February.