Recall vote may have 'messy finish'
JANESVILLE Local clerks are casting a wary eye on Tuesday's unprecedented recall election.
They're the ones, along with poll workers, who run the elections, and they've never seen a statewide recall, much less an election of any kind in June. This makes reading the tea leaves difficult.
Add that to the fact that these may be the most contentious state elections in modern history.
It's enough to make clerks and poll workers nervous, to say the least.
Then consider that the election might be close enough for a recount.
Rock County Clerk Lori Stottler said last week that she was warning municipal clerks to make sure they are sticklers for procedure, because mistakes could put them under the scrutiny of lawyers and journalists in any recount.
"I'm reminding clerks that this is a very high-profile election," Stottler said.
The recount would be free to the candidates if the margin of victory is one-half of 1 percent of the vote or less, Stottler said. If the margin is greater, a candidate could pay for a recount.
With so much money invested in the recall and anti-recall efforts, if the vote is close, "why would you not ask for a recount, even if you had to spend money to do it?" Stottler said.
If absentee voting is any indication, a relatively large number of voters will vote Tuesday.
Stottler collected numbers from all but two small townships that showed 5,771 absentee ballots as of Thursday. That's close to the total of 5,786 absentee ballots during the last gubernatorial election, in November 2010.
But it's nowhere near the 18,038 absentee ballots cast by Rock County voters during the last presidential election.
"We are going to be higher than the last gubernatorial race and considerably lower than the last presidential," said city of Janesville Clerk/Treasurer Jean Wulf.
Statewide absentee numbers showed a similar trend: Close to 2010, but not near the numbers in 2008, according to news reports.
But what exactly the absentee turnout means in an unprecedented election is hard to tell, Stottler said.
Stottler believes what a lot of observers have been saying, that Tuesday's vote will be close.
"Every vote is going to count in this election, but hopefully this will build trust among the people who think their votes don't count," Stottler said.
If the vote is close, new rules for running elections could come into play, delaying any announcement of who won.
Under the old rules, absentee ballots had to be received by Election Day in order to count. Now, ballots postmarked by Election Day will still count if they are received through the Friday after an election.
Those late-arriving ballots would not be counted until the following week when clerks conduct their canvasses, Stottler said.
Municipal clerks will canvass on Monday, June 11, and send their official totals to Stottler, who will conduct her canvass the next day.
The state has until June 23 to certify the results statewide, and state officials usually need all that time to do so, Stottler said.
Then, any recount process could begin, resulting in a long, hot summer for politicians. Recount results could be challenged in the courts.
"It could be a messy finish," Stottler said.
How people deal with the results of this election will say something about this community and society in general, Stottler suggested.
"I hope we pull together," she said.
Some of the basics for going to the polls Tuesday:
-- Polls are open statewide from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. To avoid the rush, city of Janesville Clerk/Treasurer Jean Wulf advises voters that the best times will be in the mid morning and mid afternoon. Peak times will be around 7 a.m., when polls open, the lunch hour and when people get off work.
Voters who vote at schools might want to avoid school traffic, generally 7:30-8 a.m. and 3-3:30 p.m.
-- An ID card is not required for voting this election.
-- Eligible voters who are not registered may register at their polling place Tuesday. They must provide proof of residence for at least 28 days before the election.
-- Locations of some polls and voting-district boundaries have changed since last year. To find your polling place or check your registration status, call your local municipal clerk or go online to Wisconsin Voter Public Access at vpa.wi.gov.
-- Click here to see sample ballots, election coverage and other election information.
-- Unlike in other elections, there is no option to vote a straight party ticket. Voters in Rock and Walworth counties may vote for a candidate for governor and a candidate for lieutenant governor. Voters in some other areas of the state also may vote for state Senate candidates.