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Did you vote for a candidate who dropped out of a Wisconsin race? Here's what to do

Maayan Silver

Within the past week, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson and state treasurer Sarah Godlewski have dropped out of the Democratic U.S. Senate primary. Businessman Kevin Nicholson exited the Republican primary for Wisconsin governor a few weeks ago.

But absentee ballots were printed more than 45 days before the election, and as of Thursday, more than 150,000 Wisconsin voters have returned absentee ballots for the Aug. 9 primary election.

What should voters do if they filled in a ballot for a candidate who’s no longer in the race?

To find out, we spoke with Sara Bruckman, president of the Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association and deputy municipal clerk of the village of Fox Point.

Two ways to spoil your ballot:

Voters can spoil their ballot in person at their clerk’s office or by mail or email with a written request.

Bruckman explains the procedure in a small municipality like Fox Point: “[Voters] will come in, sometimes they'll call ahead of time so we know that they're coming, so we can find their absentee ballot in the pile of ballots that have been returned,” she says. “And they will come in, and they will show us photo ID again. So, we can just verify that that is who they are.”

Then the voter’s ballot is either spoiled by the voter or the clerk, by ripping it or having the clerk rip it. “It’s their choice,” says Bruckman.

Procedure for the city of Milwaukee:

City of Milwaukee voters can request that their ballot be spoiled by emailing absenteeballot@milwaukee.gov, calling 414-286-VOTE (8683), or going to an in-person absentee (early) voting site.

After spoiling a ballot, someone can vote absentee (by mail or in-person) again or in-person on election day

But Bruckman cautions that if someone files a written request for another absentee ballot to vote by mail, the clerk has to mail the ballot to them. “And then [the voter has] to get it back to the clerk’s office by 8PM on election day. And there is no drop box. So they would have to either put it in the mail or bring it back personally.”

She says people have that option but coming in person to spoil the ballot is an easier way to make sure it’s completed by that time.

After a voter requests their ballot be spoiled, what happens from the clerk's perspective?

“We deactivate that ballot in our WisVote system,” says Bruckman. “So, there's a tracking number on [the ballot], and so it would not be able to be processed that day. And it would actually show inactive on the absentee log once we print it for election day. We will put a tear in the ballot and place it in an envelope of spoiled ballots and mark that voters name, and then circle either one, two or three, depending on what ballot number that was.” Wisconsin law allows voters to “spoil” their ballot and request a new one, for a total of three ballots.

The clerk also notes that the ballot was spoiled in the absentee ballot log and in the inspector statement.

City of Milwaukee spoiling absentee ballot deadlines for the Aug. 9 Partisan Primary are:

  • For regular absentee voters who spoil their ballot and request a new ballot by mail or vote on Election Day at their polling place: Thursday, August 4, 2022
  • For indefinitely confined absentee voters who spoil their ballot and request a new ballot by mail or to vote on Election Day at their polling place: Friday, August 5, 2022
  • For all absentee voters who spoil their ballot and request a new ballot in person at the at their in-person absentee voting locationSaturday, August 6, 2022

To find out the deadlines for other municipalities or more information

Maayan is a WUWM news reporter.
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