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Election officials felt more prepared as election ran smoother than April

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Election officials, clerks, and poll workers felt more prepared this election compared to April’s presidential primary.

The big difference? Having more time to get ready, and boosting efforts to educate voters on properly filling out absentee ballots.

Four months ago, voters experienced fewer polling places, long lines, missing absentee ballots and many more headaches when voting in midst of a pandemic.

Now, while we’re still in the thick of a national health crisis, Madison’s City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl said this election felt like a complete 180. 

“In April everything had to be prepared in such a rush,” said Witzel-Behl. “We feel we had a lot more time this election to at least order, equipment, order supplies for better protection at the polls.”

While voter turnout is typically lower in August compared to April, poll workers said they felt more comfortable working this election as well.

“There's less uncertainty and it seems there's more uniformed precautions being recommended,” said David Staab of Madison.

A big part of being more prepared had to do with grants from the federal government to stock polling locations with personal protective equipment.

The Wisconsin Election Commission also made available over 5 million in federal funding to boost security efforts and train poll workers. Most of the money is also being set aside for November.

“We’ve learned a lot since April,” said Scott McDonnell, Dane County Clerk. 

Absentee ballots we’re anticipated to possibly cause delays in reporting results but McDonnell said overall it was a smooth process and felt they had enough poll workers to count them.

The hope is that the success of this election can serve as a roadmap for November when the number of absentee ballots will be much greater.

“Our hope for November is that ballots go out on September 17th and that will give people a lot of time to make up their mind, find a witness, cast a ballot, and turn it in on time,” said Reid Magney, spokesman for WEC.

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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