John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

An election day

Tuesday was Election Day here in Wisconsin! An election day, I should say: the second one of six we'll have this year. Back in February we has the primary for municipal offices—mayors, supervisors, school board members, that sort of thing—and judges. Yesterday was the general election for those races, and the Presidential preference primary. Next month we have the primary for the recall of Governor Walker, and in June the actual recall election. In August we've got the U.S. Congressional primaries, then finally in November the general Federal election.

As usual, I spent the day working as an election official. It was not a busy day—we approached but failed to reach 400 voters among the two wards my polling place serves—so I had a chance to winnow down the stack of puzzles I carry in my backpack to do on the bus. By the end of the day, I'd completed four crosswords—three daily, one Sunday—three word searches, three Jumbles, three Cryptoquotes, six KenKens—three 4x4 and three 6x6—and one sudoku. Productive!

I also did some stuff relating to the election. For example, when the City of Madison had their ballots printed for this election, the printer cut them just slightly too wide to fit into the tabulator. They discovered the problem early enough to have them reprinted, but not before they had mailed out the absentee ballots. So when the Clerk's office delivered the absentee ballots to the polling place, we had to sort through them, find the ones that were too wide, and recreate them. (Don't worry, we removed the ballots from the envelopes and placed them face down, so that when we recreated the ballots, we wouldn't know which ballot belonged to what voter.) We had to 19 of those. Tedious!

At the end of the night, we had to sort the ballots by ward—ballots from both wards were fed into one tabulator—arrange them all in one direction—because they can be inserted and read by the tabulator regardless of how the voter inserts it into the machine—and examine the ballots for write-ins that the tabulator might have missed. (It's supposed to detect ballots with write-in votes and shunt those ballots into a separate compartment, but no system works perfectly all the time.)

Between the recreation and the sorting, my fellow election officials and I ended up looking at pretty much every ballot cast that day, so I can report my picks for best ballots. The best ballot cast in my polling place was by the person who voted for Jon Huntsman in the Republican Presidential preference primary and did not vote in any of the races or the referendum on the ballot. Considering Huntsman dropped out of the race in January, that is an impressive exercise in futility. Second best was the person who voted for Rick Santorum and also for the advisory referendum affirming that all workers should have the right to collectively bargain, and in no other race. Wisconsin has an open primary, and there were a lot of Democrats who voted for Republican Presidential candidates yesterday, but this ballot may have been cast by a genuine pro-labor Republican, because there were several other races that would have been of interest to a Democratic voter.

As far as the election results are concerned, everyone I voted for won, which is fairly rare. But for the most part, if my candidates hadn't won, I wouldn't have cared much. The four candidates for the two school board seats would have made good board members; likewise the circuit judge candidates. (Though the incumbent judge was a Walker appointee, so a lot of people opposed him on principle.) I did have a strong preference in the county supervisor race, so yay for me on that one.

There was some excitement in various other parts of the county, however. A large number of progressive candidates were elected to the County Board, knocking several conservative supervisors from their seats and giving liberals a supermajority on the board.

And there were a couple of unusual outcomes in the suburb of McFarland: one of the village trustee races ended in a tie, and a write-in candidate won a seat on the school board. In the trustee race, there were four candidates for three seats. The top two finishers were clear, winning 1,235 and 1,077 votes respectively, but the other two both received 1,036 votes. For now, that third seat is up in the air; absentee ballots postmarked Tuesday can be accepted until close of business Friday, so by then a clear winner may have emerged. If not, they'll do a recount, then resort to a tiebreaker if necessary.

In the school board race, there were two open seats but only one official candidate, so there were a huge number of write-in votes. The winning write-in candidate got 324 votes—pretty good, considering she'd only started to campaign five days before the election. Election officials were up until 4 a.m. tallying the write-in votes. And let me take this opportunity to inform you that poll workers hate write-in votes, because tallying them is hugely time-consuming and tedious. We especially hate them then they're "funny" write-ins, like "Mickey Mouse" or "John Wayne" (both of whom received votes in my polling place), or statements, such as "Never!" Sure, the voter gets some small amusement out of voting for an anthropomorphic rodent, but it takes three people to record that vote, which is just a massive waste of time and resources. The statements are even more pointless. The names get recorded, so someone doing an open-records request on the write-in vote tally sheets would see it, but statements are just tallied. No one other than the voter and the election officials who read the write-ins at the polling place will ever no about the statements, unless you do an open-records request for the original ballots. So the moral is, if you're thinking writing in a fake name as a protest vote or to amuse yourself or for any reason other than that you want to vote for someone who is running as a write-in candidate, please reconsider.

There was another weird incident over in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, where two voters were turned away for not having an ID. What makes this odd is that the flagrantly unconstitutional Voter ID law enacted last year was enjoined by two different Dane County judges last month. So election officials were not allowed to ask voters for photo ID for this election. So what happened in Waukesha? Beats me, but I have a theory.

One of the voters is quoted as saying "We were listed on their friggin' poll list and yet we had our names highlighted." That suggests to me that this was not a Voter ID issue per se, but a residency verification issue. To vote in Wisconsin, you have to be able to prove you are a legal resident of Wisconsin. You can use a driver license as proof of residency, or a utility bill, or a pay stub, or a bank statement, or several other items, and if you want to register in person, you must have one of those items with you. But! You you don't have to register in person; you can send in your registration by mail. And if you forget to include proof of residency with the registration form, your name will be entered in the poll book with a notation that says you must present proof of residency before you vote. Which could explain why the voters in Waukesha were in the poll book but highlighted. Except the women quoted in the story say they registered at Waukesha City Hall. Maybe the clerk went ahead and registered them without proof of residency, knowing they would be asked to provide proof later. Maybe the clerk thought that since it was change of address, no proof was necessary. Maybe the "proof of residency needed" field in the database was flagged in error. Maybe the voter is misremembering. Who knows?

What I do know is that if it was a residency verification issue, then the election officials at the polling place screwed up by not allowing the women to vote provisionally. This circumstance was anticipated and is covered by state election law: "A first-time Wisconsin voter who registers by mail but does not provide an identifying document establishing proof of residence at the time he or she submits the registration form and is unable to provide the required proof of residence at the polling place … is entitled to receive a provisional ballot." If this was the first time these women had tried to vote since registering in Waukesha, they would be considered first-time voters no matter how many times they'd voted elsewhere. They would have had to go to the clerk's office and prove their residency in order for those ballots to be counted, which, no question, would have been inconvenient for them. But that's better than the alternative, wouldn't you say?

The other big news out of Waukesha was that once again, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus once again proved herself to be blitheringly incompetent and utterly incapable of running an election. Nickolaus is the person whose sloppy and illegal handling of voting results in last spring's judicial election caused 14,000 votes to be overlooked, making it appear that Joanne Kloppenburg (who was elected yesterday to a seat on the state appeals court, by the way) had narrowly won a seat on the state Supreme Court when in fact David Prosser had won. The good news is that Nickolaus is up for reelection herself, so maybe the voters of Waukesha County will show some good sense and get rid of her.
Tags: current events, politics, wisconsin, wisconsin: madison

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