II. Primary Update
Voters went to the polls in several states on Tuesday, but with only Wisconsin casting presidential primary ballots, all eyes were on the Badger State.
Although the state’s new voter ID law had been rolled out at earlier elections, Tuesday marked the first presidential primary where voters had to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot. In addition to the presidential race, there was also a high-profile Supreme Court race and many local non-partisan races.
While there were reports of issues with both lines and voter ID, overall initial reports are that things went smoothly on Tuesday although the jury is still out on the implementation of the new voter ID law.
Although the numbers aren’t final, it appears that turnout was about 45 percent which is higher than it’s since 1972.
There were reports of lines at some polling places, and reports of some issues with the state’s new voter ID law. Many of these reports came from polling places typically catering to university students. Students at the University of Wisconsin said that rules about ID were inconsistent. One student reported that she was asked for proof of residence, but not a photo ID.
A polling place near Marquette University reported long lines of students wishing to register and vote on the same day.
Some polling places in Racine County were open beyond the 8 p.m. closing time because voters were still in line. Those polling places ended up closing around 8:30 p.m.
A Milwaukee polling place was briefly put on lock down due to police activity nearby, but voting was not disrupted. Instead the doors were locked and when a voter would show up, a poll worker stationed at the door would allow the voter in.
In Madison, some voters complained that construction equipment parked in front of the polling place was obstructing access to the site. The equipment was removed by 10 a.m.
In Brown County three 17-year-olds voted illegally. Two were able to convince poll workers to let them register and vote and the third certified that he was 18 although his birth date on his registration form showed differently. “We also heard that some of the people who voted at age 17 were assertive to the point of bullying poll workers who might have been intimidated into registering them,” Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno told the Green Bay Press Gazette. Unlike some other states, Wisconsin does not allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the general election to vote.
And proving why poll workers can be some of the best people around, Lois Obermeier spent her 80th birthday serving as a poll worker in the Town of Mosinee. "I just love to work with the people and do my duty. It's just something I like to do. I mean, I love people," Obermeier told WSAW.
But Wisconsin wasn’t the only state to hold elections this week. Voters went to the polls in Missouri for municipal elections.
Given the short turn around time from the March 15 presidential preference primary, elections officials in St. Louis County decided to use paper ballots instead of the county’s DRE machines. St. Louis County Elections Director Eric Fey told a local television station it would have cost the county thousands of dollars in overtime pay to reprogram and test the DRE machines in time for the municipal elections.
The problems in St. Louis County began early with polling places reporting ballot shortages by lunchtime. The county board of elections asked the Circuit Court to keep the polls open for two hours, but just after 5 p.m. Circuit Judge Maura B. McShane denied the request saying in her written order that she didn’t believe the court had the authority to extend the hours.
The Court of Appeals overturned McShane’s ruling and kept 63 precincts in 24 polling places open for an additional two hours, but some polls had already closed by the time the order was issued. Voters who wanted to vote were encouraged to go to the county elections headquarters.
Secretary of State Jason Kander said that his office will investigate how the ballot shortage happened. Frey and his Republican counterpart Gary Fuhr will both testify before the Missouri House Urban Issues Committee.
Fey told Fox 2 News that at polling places with more than one ballot style, the election board flipped the numbers of how many ballots for each style were needed meaning some polling places had too few of one ballot type and too many of another.
The only reported problems in Kansas City came first thing in the morning when tablets used to check-in voters weren’t fully charged and therefore didn’t function properly. Voting was briefly delayed.
Also in Missouri, a fire in Princeton forced elections officials to move a polling place to the Mercer County Courthouse because smoke from the fire was blowing into the polling place.
Voters in North Carolina didn’t go to the polls this week, but there was some news from the state’s March primary. The North Carolina State Board of Elections has decided that there should be a new election in the South Ward of Forsyth County. Candidate John Larson lost the primary by just six votes and it was later discovered that 26 voters were given the wrong ballots. The county board of elections agreed that Larson’s complaint had probable cause. “With a very close election like this, it doesn’t take very many irregularities to trigger a protest and have probable cause,” said Board Member Stuart Russell.