Safer at Home: What this means for April’s primary election

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- With just two weeks until the Wisconsin primary, Governor Evers’ Safer at Home initiative is causing concern for some voters.

Election officials tell NBC15 News they are taking social distancing precautions, but the April 7 primary is going to continue on as planned.

“A global pandemic was not something that was necessarily in our plans,” says Reid Magney of the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Magney says the past few weeks have seen a surge in absentee voting, as thousands request their ballots.

“What we’re doing is encouraging people to vote absentee. Anybody who wants to vote should be requesting an absentee ballot now,” he tells NBC15 News.

Meanwhile, places like Madison and Fitchburg are offering curbside absentee voting for those who don’t want to leave their vehicles.

“Pull up. If you’re able to, call. We have numbers posted at the parking meters to call us, otherwise we do have people watching the front of the building,” says Maribeth Witzel-Behl, City Clerk of Madison. “We’ve always offered curbside voting during in-person absentee voting, so that’s not new. But this is the first time we’ve reserved parking meters for it.”

Spaces are now blocked off outside the City County Building in downtown Madison, available for in-person absentee voters to cast their ballots.

If voting absentee is unavailable to you, elections officials say you will still be able to vote in-person on April 7, though that is subject to change.

“Nothing is for certain at this point. We keep finding that things change daily, so we’re trying to remain flexible and just do the best we can given the circumstances,” Witzel-Behl says. "In the clerk’s office we don’t have time for worry right now, so I wouldn’t say we’re worried. We’re just trying to balance following the social distancing recommendations with the task that we are required to do by statute."

In order for the April 7 primary to be postponed, experts say a court order or act of legislature would be required. Magney stresses the importance of keeping the election on schedule.

“For our government to continue to operate, we need people in these positions because the incumbent’s terms expire the third Tuesday in April,” Magney says. “So we have to have new people in these offices in order to have our government continue to run.”

While the deadline to register for absentee voting is Friday April 2, experts suggest voters register sooner rather than later.