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STEPHANIE BARLER, the town of Bloomfield’s chief election inspector, is on hand during early voting in the town and village. (click for larger version)
October 30, 2012 | 03:17 PMYou can tell when they arrive by the foot falls and murmurs that echo through the main corridor of the Bloomfield Town Hall.
They amble into the meeting room, their faces certain with uncertainty. But only briefly do they appear lost. Once they see the signs, the forms on the tables, the red, white and blue-striped curtains of the polling booths, they seem to relax a little, knowing they're in the right place for early voting.
Then come the questions.
Late Friday morning, a voter asked Bloomfield Town/Village Clerk Cindy Howard if he's in the right place because he has a Genoa City mailing address.
"Yes," Howard said, nodding her head in affirmation.
This happens a lot, she said. After all, four post offices serve Bloomfield. It's hard for some people to believe they live in a place that's not the one they write on every piece of mail they send out.
What creates further confusion now is there are two Bloomfields — a village and a town.
This may be a considerable change, especially for the person who only votes in every presidential election.
"The big difference between the last presidential election and this one is there will be two different lines," Howard said.
However, she doesn't predict filing voters into the "town of" and "village of" categories will stop people from hitting the polls now to Nov. 6.
"The lines for the (state gubernatorial) recall election (June 5) were out the door," Howard said. "I'm sure there will be even more voters this time around."
Why? Two reasons.
She said the presidential election always draws a bigger crowd.
Also, ever since "in-person" early voting began Oct. 22, there have been a steady stream of Bloomfieldians hitting the polls.
On Friday, Howard said more than 300 Bloomfield residents have voted so far. That estimate includes town and village of Bloomfield voters.
On the other hand, Bloomfield Village President Ken Monroe — who, along with Howard, was being interviewed for an upcoming feature about village government — said he believes the turnout won't be so high since so many are voting early.
Howard said despite this being the first presidential election she's working on with other election officials, "I wouldn't say I'm nervous."
So what would you say?
"Ask me after the election," Howard said.
Register to vote
A main point she made Friday is that in light of major local changes and state law, it can be confusing for people who wish to vote, especially between now and Nov. 2, the last day for early voting.
"The big thing is are you registered," Howard said. "Have you changed your name or you address?"
If you are not registered, you need to do so in order to vote, she said. Also, if you have changed your name or you have moved, you must register.
She said you must be a resident of the town or village of Bloomfield at least 28 days prior to the election.
"If you've been here less than 28 days, call your municipal clerk," Howard said.
She said there has been some confusion about needing an ID to vote.
"You don't need ID to vote," Howard said.
However, if you need to register to vote, you may have to "re-register," she said.
According to Howard, if you have been issued a driver's license or a state ID, there is a number on that card which has to be disclosed in order to register. So does the expiration date.
If you don't have a license or a state ID, you can provide the last four digits of your Social Security number. Proof of residency also is required.
Howard said people should know how important it is to be accurate when they register to vote.
"When you are signing the voter registration form, you're signing an oath," she said. "You're swearing and affirming that all of these statements on the registration form are correct."
It's common for most Bloomfieldians to have a physical address that differs from their mailing address.
The Pell Lake, Genoa City, Lake Geneva and Burlington post offices serve regions of the town and village of Bloomfield.
Howard said people should fill out both address fields on the registration form.
One reason is it's common for people who only vote, say, every four years to "fall off" the registration list.
"Every four years, they do voter maintenance (and) if you have no mailing address on the list, you're not going to get your (registration) renewal postcard," she said.
While it can be hard for someone with a Genoa City, Burlington or Lake Geneva address to grapple with the idea of voting at the Bloomfield Town Hall, there is a fair amount of confusion stemming from within the Pell Lake Post Office's coverage area.
Howard said just because someone has a Pell Lake post office box doesn't mean they vote in Bloomfield.
"People can have a Pell Lake Post Office box and not live in Bloomfield," she said.
The big day
It's a stressful time for Howard.
Not only does she have to work out two municipal budgets soon, she has to do it during early voting, which ends Friday at 5 p.m.
And she has to prepare for Nov. 6.
Howard said she's glad Stephanie Barler, chief election inspector for the town of Bloomfield, is assisting in the early election process.
But what can help make the presidential election run smoothly?
Howard said they will have more people on hand.
"We're going to have greeters to assist, to try to get people in the right lines," she said. "We'll have at least two greeters.
"As it gets busier, we might send more people outside."
She said people can register or ask questions prior to Election Day.
There also is a website, myvote.wi.gov, which Howard said provides Wisconsin voters with numerous resources, including an online voter registration process.
"Anyone across the state can use that," she said.
Otherwise, Howard had this short but important bit of advice for those waiting to hit the polls Nov. 6.
"Just be patient, and dress for the weather," she said.