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A busy day for municipal clerks

Martin anticipates largest voter turnout in Fontana's history

October 23, 2008
For municipal clerks, Nov. 4 is likely going to be one of the busiest days of the year.

"I'm sure it's going to be the biggest turnout we've ever had," Village Clerk Dennis Martin said. "We're going to have all of our available poll workers here on Election Day."

Martin said the 2004 presidential race brought a record number of voters to Fontana's polls.

In Walworth, Village Clerk-Treasurer Donna Schut also anticipates a high turnout and expects it will break previous voter turnout records.

The clerks already are seeing an increased workload, with both presidential campaigns pushing for early voter registration and for voters to fill out absentee ballots.

Martin said on Monday afternoon 100 residents already have turned in absentee ballots.

"It creates a little extra work. We're just busy," Martin said.

Martin said for the last few weeks, voters have been steadily coming in, requesting absentee ballots and registering to vote.

"People can come in at anytime to fill out an absentee ballot," he said.

Although Martin is expecting an increased voter turnout, he doesn't anticipate long lines in Fontana.

In 2004, the longest wait was about five minutes, he said.

Martin also has seen an increase in overseas ballots. He has already received seven overseas ballots. In 2004, he only had two.

Schut said in 2004, 1,247 voters came to Village Hall. She said with the high turnout, there were lines to vote.

"People were very patient during the last presidential election," she said. "We're counting on that again this year."

She said this year, the polling times have been extended by two hours, and she is hoping that makes the lines shorter.

Registering voters

Schut went to Big Foot High School last week to register new voters. She also went to the library to register voters during hours when Village Hall is closed.

"I hoped to catch people off-site," she said.

On Monday morning, Martin also went to the high school to register voters.

He said none of the students who approached him lived in the village, so he couldn't register them.

However, Martin said young people in Fontana tend to be civic-minded, and a lot of 18-year-olds come in on their birthday to register to vote.

Schut said every election cycle, she goes to Golden Years to register new residents to vote and to provide them with absentee ballots.

She expects the village will receive 30 to 40 absentee ballots from Golden Years alone.

A few early hiccups

Special interest groups and both presidential campaigns have sent letters to registered voters encouraging them to request absentee ballots.

However, the form didn't include all the necessary information.

At first, Martin wrote letters to people who used information from these groups asking them to provide the missing information.

However, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board is now allowing municipal clerks to use these forms, Martin said.

Schut has run into similar problems with the mailings. On the card there is a box that the voter check to certify that they are registered to vote.

"Quite often, voters check that their registered, but I can't send them an absentee ballot because they're not registered."

In this situation, Schut sends them a letter explaining what they need to do.

Martin said there has also been misleading information presented to voters. Some mailings have warned long-time registered voters that they may no longer be registered.

"If you are unsure you can call the clerk and we can check the voter's list," he said.

One other problem with Fontana near the Illinois border, Chicago radio stations have warned residents that they need to register to vote 20 days before Election Day.

Wisconsin residents hear this and are worried that they will no longer be able to vote.

"In Wisconsin, it has always been — and it still is — that you can register and vote the day of the election," he said.

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