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State Election Runs Smoothly in Wisconsin Officials to Examine Improvements for 2009 Elections

Date: 
November 6, 2008

MADISON, WI – The General Election in Wisconsin on Tuesday, November 4, was virtually problem-free, according to state election officials.
While final turnout numbers are still not available, Wisconsin voters went to the polls in great numbers to vote, and were able to cast their votes with no major problems.

“Wisconsin election officials were prepared for Election Day and did great work,” said Kevin Kennedy, Director and General Counsel of the Government Accountability Board. “While various polling places had to deal with normal Election Day glitches, our poll workers and chief election inspectors responded with patience and experience.”

Prior to Election Day, the state Elections Division asked local election officials to prepare for emergency situations, a proper amount poll workers, an ample supply of ballots, processing a large number of absentee voters, and an increase in statewide voter registration.

While some voters stood in line in some communities for 30-minutes or more due to increased voter participation, no reports were made of voters being turned away from the polls. Since the 2004 General Election, an emphasis on planning and preparation has made local officials better equipped to carry out elections.

In concert with local election partners, Wisconsin’s Elections Division next will conduct a review of election administration procedures, processes and business practices, and collaborative efforts between units of government, to further improve elections in the state. Some items which will be examined are:

• Possible use of early voting in Wisconsin
• Review of the new administrative rule for election observers
• Consideration of the use of the central count absentee model on a wider basis
• More effective Election Day communication between election officials
• Reinforcing the importance of elections contingency planning

“Elections administration is art -- not a science,” said Nat Robinson, Elections Division Administrator. “Therefore, as society and technology evolves, we must continue to refine our election process to ensure openness, efficiency, and integrity to the highest degree.”

A number of normal issues cropped up during Election Day, such as broken voting machines, late voter registrations that were not on printed poll lists, and one municipality that ran out of paper ballots. Those issues were dealt with quickly and effectively. Only one major emergency situation occurred.

A bomb threat occurred at the Middleton High School polling place Tuesday afternoon. Working with the City of Middleton’s attorney and clerk, G.A.B. staff counsel coordinated a joint effort that resulted in a Dane County Circuit Court judge issuing an order to extend voting hours until 8:30 p.m. No other emergencies were reported that affected the general process of voting in Wisconsin.

“Wisconsin has a well-earned tradition of well-run and transparent elections,” Kennedy said. “Yesterday was no exception.”