ROCK COUNTY, Wis.—Election officials in Rock County are looking for ways to accommodate voters during the coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis.
Early voting and other options to keep residents safe are being urged before the April 7 spring election in Wisconsin.
In Beloit, Clerk-Treasurer Lori Stottler said staff processed 1,099 absentee ballots and have a backlog of 1,300 absentee ballot requests that await processing.
“Two weeks from an election, when you look at our past numbers, this is unprecedented,” Stottler said.
In April of 2016, the last presidential primary, 672 voted absentee, according to city election data.
All nine polling places are expected to be open for voting. Polling places will be sanitized following use and voters are asked to bring their own black pen to the polls.
The city is currently offering drive-through voter registration and absentee voting through April 3 in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Voters should remain in their cars and await instructions from the poll workers. Enter the City Hall parking lot from Shirland Avenue and follow the signage. If individuals are not registered to vote, they will be instructed to park in a dedicated stall and an election official will attend to their needs.
To request an absentee ballot be mailed to voters, they should visit myvote.wi.gov/en-us. The request must be received in the clerk’s office by 5 p.m. on April 2, however, accommodations can still be made for in-person absentee voting via the drive through service.
The drive-through absentee voting service will continue from 8 a.m.—5 p.m. Monday through Friday, through Friday, April 3.
Assisting at the drive-through location at City Hall, 100 State St., are Stateline Family YMCA displaced staff.
“What if you get sick and can’t get to vote,” Rock County Clerk Lisa Tollefson asked. “Then you lose that opportunity. Take care of it ahead of time and vote absentee.”
The Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) is “currently looking for options to find additional stock at that clerks can use” during a shortage of ballot envelopes, with a WEC memo estimating that 600,000 additional ballot envelopes will be needed.
“The WEC is expected to begin to receive a large portion of the envelopes on March 25, 2020,” the memo reads.
Tollefson said her office was in the process of making sure there were enough absentee ballots on hand for local municipalities during the surge in absentee voting.
“We’re monitoring the supply chain and making sure we have what we need to meet demand,” Tollefson said.
Tollefsen also put out a call for poll workers amid fears there might not be enough election staff to assist due to most election officials being seniors, a high risk group of contracting COVID-19.
“We are expecting only a low number of Election Day voters at the polls,” Tollefsen said. Poll workers will mainly be opening absentee ballots and inserting the ballots in tabulators.”
Poll workers must be at least 18-years-old; a qualified Rock County voter; able to read and write English; not be disqualified by effect of felon status or mental incapacitation; not be a candidate on the ballot. Those interested in applying should contact the clerk’s office at email@example.com.