Covid-19 triggers ‘tsunami’ of absentee ballot requests

Ozaukee Press staff

As fears about the coronavirus have spread, the number of voters seeking to cast absentee ballots in the April 7 election has increased significantly in Ozaukee County and across the state.

Port Washington City Clerk Susan Westerbeke said Tuesday that she has been inundated by requests for absentee ballots.

“There’s been a tsunami of absentee requests,” Westerbeke said. “It has been all day, every day since Friday.”

Between Friday and Monday, she received 540 requests for absentee ballots, Westerbeke said, adding that she received another approximately 100 email requests for absentee ballots on Tuesday.  

In contrast, when the last presidential primary was held in April 2016, only 789 absentee ballots were cast, Westerbeke said.

“People are worried,” she said, noting that many of those who stopped at City Hall to request an absentee ballot were elderly and those considered vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Fredonia Village Clerk Sandi Tretow said Tuesday her office had received 38 absentee ballot requests, adding she expects that number to grow.

“Plus a lot of people have been calling and asking when and how can they vote absentee,” she said.

They aren’t alone. The Wisconsin Elections Commission said Tuesday that more than 173,000 requests for absentee ballots have been received by municipal clerks throughout the state, a number that exceeds the total requests for absentee ballots in three of the last four elections.

In 2016, during the last presidential primary, 249,500 absentee ballots were issued throughout the state, according to the commission.

Voters may request municipalities send them an absentee ballot through 5 p.m. Friday, April 2.

They may also electronically request absentee ballots on the state’s website.

These ballots must be received by municipal clerks by 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 7, in order to be counted in the election. 

Early voting and in-person registration for the spring election may be done beginning Monday, March 23, and running through Friday, April 3.

Westerbeke said she expects many people will stop at City Hall to cast ballots or register to vote before the April 7 election.

But while many people may think they will avoid lines by voting early, that may not be the case, she said.

“This is a big election,” Westerbeke said. “When they come here, there are going to be a lot of people here. They will be standing together. We’re going to do our best to space them out.”

It’s not just voters who are being affected by the coronavirus, Westerbeke said. So, too, are poll workers.

“I have poll workers who have health conditions and can’t work the polls this year,” she said.

She has one bit of advice for people heading to the polls — whether to vote early or on election day.

“Pack your patience,” she said.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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