Wisconsin elections officials prepare for bad weather

Published: Feb. 19, 2018 at 3:22 PM CST
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With freezing rain and icy roads expected, viewers ask questions about how it could affect Tuesday's spring primary.

The public information officer with the Wisconsin Elections Commission, Reid Magney, said his office has received many questions from election officials.

NBC15 asked Magney if our state has ever had to postpone an election because of bad weather.

"We have not, we are not aware of the governor ever cancelling an election or postponing an election because of some weather-related event and it would take an order from the governor to do that," said Magney.

Magney said he has not heard anything from the Governor Walker’s office about rescheduling or postponing Tuesday's election. We also asked what happens if a polling place loses power.

"Most of the ballots are cast on paper to begin with and, in the event that there was no power at all, those ballots could be put into a ballot box and counted by hand or fed into a machine later when there's power. Most of the electronic voting equipment have battery backups anyway, so that's not something people have to worry about," said Magney.

Magney also said polling places are not allowed to close early because of weather.

"You can't just close early because it doesn't look like anybody's coming or you want to get home. In the event that conditions are bad, clerks should ask their public works departments or law enforcement in the community to help those poll workers get the results to the right place and help get those poll workers home safely," said Magney.

Also, if you are presented with the opportunity to vote on touch screen machines, you can always request to vote on a paper ballot.

"Individual counties and municipalities decide what voting equipment they are going to have. Most of the ballots, 90% of the ballots in Wisconsin are paper ballots. Only about 10% are the DRE direct recording equipment touch screens and those tend to be in more rural areas," said Magney. "The touch screen machines are set up so if someone has a visual impairment or a physical impairment it is easier to use versus paper ballots."

Magney also said voters can get up to three ballots if they accidentally ruin theirs.

"It is best if you don't get your ballots wet. Hopefully nobody's that wet and dripping, but generally I wouldn't say it would ruin a ballot. The other thing is that you can get up to three ballots in case you make a mistake," said Magney.

If driving conditions are expected to be better later in the day, Magney said he'd recommend waiting to vote. For people who like to be at the polls right away in the morning to beat the lines, he said there aren't going to be any lines in this election with a relatively low turnout expected. Historically, Magney said this election brings out about seven percent of the adult population.

"These local races are where people can have their voice heard, so we encourage people to get out and vote," said Magney.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Tuesday.