Absentee ballot confusion in Senate primary
Absentee voters may get two ballots, but only one counts
A special primary election to fill a vacancy in the 33rd State Senate District that will be held in conjunction with the Nov. 6 general election will pose some challenges for local election officials. It could also create some confusion for voters casting absentee ballots and perhaps delay the determination of the winner of the primary contest.
State Reps. Chris Kapenga and Paul Farrow are seeking the Republican nomination to succeed former State Sen. Rich Zipperer, who resigned to accept a post in the governor's office. The winner of the primary election will be the GOP candidate in a special election Dec. 4.
The 33rd Senate District includes the Cities of Delafield and Waukesha, the Villages of Pewaukee, Sussex, Merton, Chenequa, Hartland, Wales, North Prairie, Dousman, Oconomowoc Lake and Nashotah as well as the Towns of Waukesha, Merton and Delafield and portions of the Town of Lisbon.
Gov. Scott Walker opted to fill the vacancy by election rather than appointment and wanted to hold the primary contest in conjunction with the regularly scheduled November general election.
However, the deadline for filing candidacy petitions for the primary election is not until Oct. 9, which is well after the time when state and county election officials print and distribute absentee ballots for the November general election. Consequently, voters who apply by mail to cast absentee ballots will receive two ballots - the second to accommodate the primary candidates once the filing deadline has passed.
According to the state Government Accountability Board, individuals who have applied for absentee ballots by mail will receive a paper general election ballot ("G" ballot) that does not include the state Senate primary contest. Voters who receive this ballot may cast it immediately, if they want.
If the ballot is returned immediately, it will not be counted until the Waukesha County election canvass is conducted on the Friday after the election (Nov. 9).
The absentee voter might opt to wait until mid- to late-October, when they will receive the second ballot. This ballot ("S" ballot) will include the state Senate primary as well as all of thecontests in the regularly scheduled general election.
If the absentee voter casts the "S" ballot, local election officials will reject any "G" ballot the voter might have cast earlier.
Someone who has applied for an absentee ballot and later decides he or she wants to vote in person may do so, provided the absentee ballot they cast was a "G" ballot, since it would not yet have been counted. But a person who has cast an "S" ballot cannot later decide to vote in person because their "S" ballot might have already been counted, according to City of Delafield Deputy Clerk Ellen O'Brien.
Possible delay in results
O'Brien and other clerks also acknowledged a possible delay in determining the results of the election if there are a large number of absentee ballots combined with a close election.
Absentee ballots must be postmarked no later than the day of the election. Absentee ballots received on election day or later in the week are not counted until Nov. 9
In addition, mailed absentee "S" ballots must be reconciled with "B" ballots to ensure that the proper "G" ballot is rejected if an "S" ballot was later cast by the same voter.
"It is complicated," added Sussex Village Clerk Sue Freiheit.
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