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Problems at the Polls: Many Voting for Two Candidates for Same Office

Forget Voter ID. Today, during the state's first recall primary election, poll workers from communities in southeastern Wisconsin reported overvoting as the most common "problem" they've faced.

The unusual rules of Tuesday's historic recall primary election are creating some confusion among voters throughout southeastern Wisconsin, according to local election officials.

In most primary elections, voters have to decide whether they're going to vote for all Republican or all Democratic candidates.

But in Tuesday's recall race, voters can cast a ballot for a Republican in one race and a Democrat in another. And that is leading to some problems with overvoting — where voters wind up voting for more than one candidate in a race.

Problems have been reported in Wauwatosa, Shorewood, Brookfield, Mount Pleasant, Caledonia, Greendale and elsewhere.

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Sharon Ingles, chief elections inspector at Concordia Lutheran in Mount Pleasant, said overvoting was by far the biggest issue of the day.

"We've never had so many overvotes as we've had today — and it's only one o'clock," she said.

Vicky Beauchamp, a poll inspector at the voting location at Franksville United Methodist Church in Caledonia, said the ballot has been confusing for some.

"We've had a number of overvotes because the ballot is different than what folks are used to," Beauchamp said. "Because this is a recall election, it's not a normal primary."

In Greendale, there's also been some confusion.

"They think they can vote one in the Democrat and one in the Republican," said Deputy Clerk-Treasurer Joan Siefert. "We are saying that they can only vote one for governor and one for lieutenant governor."

Siefert said voters heard some wrong information in the news and radio stations.

"Overvoting is the biggest problem," added Kim Bogadi, who is managing the polling place at Carollton Elementary School in Oak Creek.

Overvoted? You should get to try again

While overvoting has been causing some issues, the fix is easy — the ballot machine picks up the error and residents can get a new ballot and vote again.

In Wauwatosa, elections workers were encountering so many problems they finally started telling voters to only vote for one candidate as they entered the voting both.

"Some people heard on the news that you could vote for anybody," said Susan Van Hoven of the Wauwatosa City Clerk's Office. "They took that to mean they could vote in each party race. Poll workers were trying to tell them, 'No, you can vote only once for the governor's office.'"

Wauwatosa Chief Inspector Kathy Repka said "quite a few" residents were erroneously voting for both a Republican and a Democrat for governor, invalidating their ballots and requiring them to vote with a replacement ballot.

After repeat problems in the morning, the poll workers decided to start telling all voters when they grabbed a ballot to not vote twice for the same office. That reduced the errors, Repka said.

Sturtevant poll workers were doing the same thing. Poll worker Kathy Lynaugh said there was quite a bit of overvoting so poll workers were making sure to give extra instructions as they handed each voter their ballot.

"We're pointing out the governor's race to make sure they understand," she said. "It takes an extra few seconds, but I think it's helping residents fill out their ballots correctly."

Waukesha poll workers followed suit, telling residents at Blair Elementary School how the ballot worked to ensure that people did not vote for candidates in both the Democratic and the Republican primaries.

Steve Webber of Waukesha said he had no problems with the ballot when he voted Tuesday afternoon at Hawthorne Elementary School.

In Shorewood, a ballot machine was out of commission for about 10 minutes because of an overvote and a tape jam.

Shorewood poll inspector Mary Jo McDonald said voters were steadily piling up at the polling place at 1600 E. Lake Bluff Blvd. until they could resolve the problem and get the machine back up and running.

GAB: Haven't heard about it elsewhere

Reid Magney, spokesman for the state Government Accountability Board, said the agency that oversees elections in Wisconsin was unaware of overvoting issues elsewhere in Wisconsin.

"Being as you’re on the ground and we’re here in Madison, we don’t have any reason to doubt the information you’re getting," he responded via email. "But I can’t say it’s something we’ve heard about today."

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