Vote went smooth under new rules
Click here to get full results from the Spring 2013 elections in Rock and Walworth Counties.
JANESVILLE The first election under Wisconsin's new voting rules and redrawn ward lines was about as smooth as could be expected, elections officials said Tuesday.
A few people complained about having to show photo ID cards, poll workers said.
One man even refused to vote at Rotary Gardens in Janesville because of the ID requirement, Chief Elections Inspector Sally Krueger said.
"I said, 'Go to City Hall and tell them,'" and the man left, Krueger said.
"He didn't cause a scene. He was very nice about it, and I said, 'Well, we all have our opinions—free country,'" she said.
City Clerk/Treasurer Jean Wulf said she was not aware of anyone complaining at City Hall, as of late afternoon.
New rules also required people to state their names and sign poll books before voting.
The rules didn't deter high turnouts in at least some jurisdictions.
Janesville had the highest turnout—about 20 percent—in Rock County, Rock County Clerk Lori Stottler said. In Rock County, 12,668 ballots were cast, which is 15 percent of registered active voters.
"All over the county, it was higher than usual," she said.
While the turnout wasn't a record, it's been at least a decade or two since it's been this high for a primary on a local race, she said.
Some polls by late afternoon were trending toward a doubling of what they normally see for primaries, she said.
In Walworth County, 2,019 ballots were cast in a scattering of primaries, Walworth County Clerk Kimberly Bushey said. Some parts of the county had no election, so a countywide turnout number would not be meaningful, she said.
Bushey did print some extra ballots for some municipalities at noon just to be on the safe side, she said.
No provisional ballots were cast in Walworth County, meaning everyone showed up with their identification, she said.
In Janesville, Krueger was calling for more ballots by about 10 a.m. She and other polls across the city were running low, so Wulf borrowed from Beloit to fill the gap, and then she ordered more.
Wulf said the highest spring primary turnout in the past 10 years was 2,200. She ordered 4,800 ballots for this election, which was not enough for the 6,600 cast.
Stottler, whose office pays for the ballots, said the 7,000 extras for Janesville cost $1,960.
Wulf said she probably wouldn't use all of the ballots, but she had to decide early so they could be printed in time to save the day.
As it was, Ward 3 used 15 ballots that had to be hand counted because they were copies that the machine tabulators could not read.
The high turnout was a good problem, officials said.
"What's really pleasing to me is all clerks and chief inspectors I spoke to, at nine hours into the process, were very cheery and optimistic and pleased with the way the day has gone," Stottler said. "Very few irritants, as we call them."
Chief Elections Inspector Bertha Janis at the Hedberg Public Library in Janesville noted "little grumbling, a little teasing, that's it."
Many at the library cracked jokes and greeted friends. One lady walking with a cane joked that she was just pulling out her ID, not a gun.
Most voters seen by Gazette observers seemed to know they needed ID cards to vote. In Janesville, many came with the postcards the city had sent out, telling them where they voted and what wards they lived in.
Many voters entered Kennedy Elementary School with the cards in hand, poll worker Marsha Mood said. Tuesday's voters were informed about the new law, she said.
Ward boundaries were redrawn for this election. Janesville wards were renumbered, and some new polling places were added, while others were abandoned. The changes didn't seem to faze most voters.
Walworth County also was humming along smoothly Tuesday, Bushey said. She said she didn't receive any complaints.
Wulf attributed the high turnout to expansive coverage by local news media in the weeks leading up to the election. She also suggested that the Janesville connections of all the judge candidates might have led to a voting spike in the city.
One possibility for trouble still remained Tuesday, Stottler said: The governor signed a bill Friday that altered the post-election process. The bill, Act 115, moved the certification of the official vote from Thursday to the next Tuesday, Stottler said.
The extra time accommodates late-arriving absentee ballots, which will be counted if they are postmarked by Tuesday and received by Friday. It also allows time to count provisional ballots, which were issued to voters who didn't have proper IDs or whose status was questioned for some other reason. Those voters have until Friday to prove to their local clerks that their votes are valid.
Those late-counted votes, as well as any changes discovered when the official canvass is conducted next Tuesday, could make a difference in a close election, Stottler said.
Stottler sent an email to news media Tuesday morning, warning them not to be hasty in declaring winners in close races.
Officials will face bigger crowds and many more inexperienced voters for the presidential preference primary and the nonpartisan spring elections April 3.
Gazette reporter Gina Duwe contributed to this report.