Local election officials, organizers taking new precautions ahead of Spring Primary

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)– The Spring Primary is just a few weeks away in Wisconsin, but concerns over the coronavirus are already impacting polling procedures.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission is directing local officials to mail absentee ballots to nursing homes and care facilities instead of having special election deputies travel there to conduct voting. It is also giving municipal clerks the ability to relocate polling places currently slated for nursing homes and other facilities where public health is a concern.

Local officials are taking additional precautions as absentee in-person voting will start as early as next week in some La Crosse County communities. La Crosse County Clerk Ginny Dankmeyer said her office just hand sanitizer wipes and thousands of pens.

“Every voter that goes into a polling place for both in-person absentee and at the polls on election day will get a pen to sign the poll book with, to vote with and they can leave with that pen,” said Dankmeyer.

Officials are working to minimize cross-contamination and ensure that people will feel comfortable casting a ballot on election day. Otherwise, there are options.

“Starting on the 23rd, a majority of La Crosse County will have the in-person absentee voting so if people want to get in right away while they’re still feeling healthy to vote, they can do that,” Dankmeyer said.

People are encouraged to apply for absentee voting as soon as possible if they are immunocompromised or concerned about the coronavirus. Their application and any required materials are due to the clerk’s office by 5 p.m. on April 2nd.

“[Do that] sooner rather than later if you’re going to want to vote absentee or by mail. I suggest you get on that now so the clerks have time to get it to you and you have time to get that ballot back so it can be counted on election day,” Dankmeyer said.

La Crosse County Clerk Ginny Dankmeyer doesn’t believe overall turnout could be impacted but does anticipate seeing fewer people on April 7th.

“We’re going to get more people coming in absentee voting or requesting ballots by mail,” Dankmeyer said.

Not only does the pandemic affect how some people will get their ballot but how community members are trying to get out the vote. Effective immediately, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is postponing in-person events and ending all in-person canvassing.

Democratic Party Press Release

Courtesy of Ben Wikler on Twitter. Wikler is the chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

“One of the things I like about door to door canvassing is I have good conversations,” said Carol Klitzke, an action team leader for the La Crosse County Democratic Party.

Klitzke works with volunteers in La Crosse and Onalaska for the local democratic party. The organization was planning on having a canvassing information session Saturday, but that has been canceled.  She said they’re switching gears.

“We’ll be contacting people by telephone or by text or by email,” Klitzke said.

While the ways they’ll be motivating people to cast a ballot are changing, she said it will be an easy switch.

“All of us are really interested in connecting with voters and potential voters, educating them about when the election is [and] how to get a ballot,” Klitzke said.

Meanwhile, the La Crosse County Republican Party said it is not changing any of its plans. It will continue going door-to-door to meet with voters and a major fundraiser at the end of the month is going ahead as planned.

For now, the election is still on so voters are encouraged to learn about their options to cast a ballot. People will be voting for their presidential preference, a statewide referendum, state supreme court race and local offices, among others.

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