Absentee Voting Growing in Brookfield

With 2 1/2 weeks to go and on the eve of in-person early voting, Brookfield so far has received requests for about one-quarter of the total absentees cast in the 2008 presidential election.

With in-person absentee voting set to begin Monday, Brookfield already has received more than 1,212 completed early ballots, the city clerk's office says.

More than 900 additional city voters requested absentee ballots but had not returned them as of Friday.

With about 2 1/2 weeks to go before the presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, early voting requests in Brookfield have reached about one-quarter of the total absentee ballots cast in the 2008 presidential election.

Early voting has been on the rise in Brookfield for presidential elections, up from 1,854 absentee ballots cast in 1996, to 3,001 in 2000, 6,120 in 2004 and more than 8,820 in 2008, city records show.

Absentee Ballots (as of Oct. 19)   Requested Returned Regular Voters 2,060 1,197 Military Voters 37 8 Overseas Voters 34 7 Totals 2,131 1,212

Source: Brookfield City Clerk's Office

City Clerk Kelly Michaels said she prefers more voting to occur on election day Nov. 6 because it saves the city money from hiring extra personnel to handle early voting. Absentee ballots also do not offer the full protection to voters that ballots cast on election day do, she said.

Absentee ballots collected in the weeks prior to the election are not counted until election day when poll workers feed them into the election machines. If the machine kicks out the ballot as in error, that absentee voter does not get a chance to correct the ballot to make it count. A person voting at the polls on election day, however, can get up to three ballots if errors occur.

Aldermen recently authorized tapping $45,000 in city contingency funds to cover unbudgeted election expenses from 2012's unusually large number of elections, including Gov. Scott Walker's defeat in June of a recall attempt.

Starting on Monday, residents can go to the City Clerk's office at City Hall, 2000 N. Calhoun Rd. to vote absentee at the clerk's counter.

New online registration, voting options

But this year there are even more options to register and vote. Voters can now print off absentee ballots off the state's MyVote.WI.gov, complete them and mail them to their local clerk's office. So far, 11 military and overseas voters have printed out the online ballots, and one has returned it via mail to the city.

All absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day Nov. 6, and received by 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9 to be counted.

Voting absentee in person starts Monday and ends at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2.

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Statewide, the in-person early voting window has been compressed into a two-week period this year, which may be the reason for such a quick number of votes cast, said Reid Magney with the Government Accountability Board.

"We have a compressed two-week period of time for early voting in the clerks office, whereas, in previous years, it may have started three or more weeks before the election," Magney said. Absentee ballots were available sooner this year than in previous years as well, he said. 

Approximately 110,000 absentee ballots have been requested so far in municipalities that use the Statewide Voter Registration System, Magney said. But of the 1,851 municipalities, only 830 use the system, he said. So this can only offer a small slice of a statewide visual on voter turnout.  

"In 2008, there were 633,000 absentee ballots cast and we estimate that about 65 percent of those were cast in the clerk's office," Magney said. "So, that's one benchmark, but this early in the process before in-person absentee voting has started yet, it's hard to tell anything."

For information on polling places, voter ID laws and candidate profile pages, check out Brookfield Patch's Election Guide 2012. 


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