Voters May Have Another Option to Cast Ballots Next Year - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Voters May Have Another Option to Cast Ballots Next Year


Eau Claire (WQOW) - Voters will have another option to cast their ballots next year if a new program is approved by the state.

Last Friday, the State Accountability Board sent a $17 million plan to the Legislature that would upgrade the state's election process. Part of that plan includes another early-voting option in which you could cast a ballot weeks before the election using a voting machine.

Last November, 73 percent of eligible voters in Wisconsin showed up at the polls. At times, the lines were lengthy, which is why the State Accountability Board is offering a plan that would open regional polls weeks before the election. Voters already have the option to vote early through absentee ballots.

"The main difference is whether that ballot is run through a machine, or whether it's placed in an envelope to be taken to a voting site on election day," says Donna Austad, Eau Claire city clerk.

Since 2000, state residents have been able to vote absentee, with no questions asked. Supporters of the new plan say it would make it easier on Election night, because the early votes would already be tallied from the machines, and officials would not have to pain-stakingly go through each absentee ballot. The idea may sound great, but some say it wouldn't work that smoothly.

"The machines we have now are all dedicated to a site, so we would have to prepare those ahead of time. We couldn't use them for early voting, and then prepare them and get them to the site for Election Day," says Austad.

That's because each machine is already customized to a specific ward. A region-wide machine would need to have many voting options available to appeal to all voters, which would cost the state a half million dollars from the start.

"In the economy that we have right now, I don't think it would be a good idea to start something that we'd have to put more money and effort into at this point in time. I think that the system isn't necessarily broken now, so why fix it?" says Heather Pauls, Eau Claire resident.

"The city has a tight budget, county budgets are tight, the state budget is tight, I'm not sure where that funding is coming from," says Austad.

The State Accountability Board will be holding listening sessions on the proposed voting option. If approved by the state, the program could begin as early as next spring.

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