Early requests, returns show absentee voting popular across state, clerk challenges vary with community size

MADISON, Wis. — Dane County has twice as many absentee ballots returned than anywhere else in the state, but even in smaller counties this way of voting is popular.

According to the Wisconsin Elections Commissions, 32,404 ballots have been returned in Dane County. The next closest county is Waukesha, where voters have returned 16,073 ballots.

Madison city clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl said she’s still nailing down poll locations for those who want to vote in person on Election Day while staying on top of changing needs.

“It’s hard to know exactly what you’re going to need in a pandemic, and so every day it feels like you’re spinning on a dime trying to address something new that’s come up,” she said.

It’s a feeling common in clerks across the state, no matter the size of the municipality. In some smaller communities, there are other challenges too.

Lisa Riley, the clerk-treasurer in Dodgeville, said she has other duties beyond the election.

“We’re also the same people who do the day to day business … our health insurance open enrollment and budget all in the same time frame,” she said.

That workload makes it challenging for her to find time to apply for grants needed to secure necessary sanitation and personal protective equipment, though she said she’s in a good spot now.

“That’s been a challenge for the election or even just the city in general is just getting a hold of some of that stuff and the inflation of cost,” Riley said. “We’re looking at gloves, and that’s gone up 400%.”

To help her out, she said voters should carefully read the instructions with their ballots and request and return them as soon as they can.