‘Time is our friend here’: Election officials say they feel more prepared now than in April

There are three weeks until the partisan primary election on Aug. 11

MADISON, Wis. — There is less than month to go until the August primary, the election that will narrow the ticket for local races in November. The Madison city clerk’s office said their staff feels much better now compared to April.

“(The April election) came so fast that so many people requested absentee ballots so close to the election that it was, we did it, but it was very difficult to do in as timely a manner as we’d like,” said Jim Verbick, the deputy city clerk.

This time it’s looking different, and time is a big reason why.

“Time is our friend here and experience is our friend,” said Reid Magney, the Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesman. “We’ve been through this before. We know what we’re doing now, and hopefully that will make things go more smoothly.”

With months of prep instead of weeks, the city was able to secure a $1.3 million grant — $500 thousand of that going to sanitation supplies and personal protective equipment for in-person voting.

“We’ll definitely have enough masks for everyone,” Verbick said. “We have gloves. We have hand sanitizer, and we’ll make sure to have the proper measuring down that we did last election to make sure people can maintain a safe distance.”

The clerk’s office has also already sent out many absentee ballots, just like others in the state. Verbick and Magney credited people who requested ballots for the year in April.

“Right now we’ve had a lot of time, more than 700,000 ballots have gone out statewide, and more than 100,000 have been returned already,” Magney said.

There is still time to request a ballot, but the Wisconsin Elections Commission doesn’t want people to wait until the Thursday before the election in case there are problems again with the mail. They say request that as soon as possible, especially with the Wednesday deadline to register online.

If it gets to be too late, municipalities have other options.

The city of Madison is working on using some of the remaining grant money to buy drop bins, which they hope to staff a person at who can sign a ballot if needed.

The city still needs more poll workers. The clerk’s office is planning on using more of the grant money to give hazard pay to those interested, bringing the pay up to about $22 an hour.