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Overvoting Creates Headaches in Milwaukee Suburbs

Some people voted for two or more presidential candidates on the same ballot, area elections officials say.

Elections officials from several Milwaukee suburbs reported issues with overvoting during Tuesday's presidential election, and one city said the problem caused them to worry whether they would have enough ballots.

Greenfield City Clerk Jennifer Goergen said the city ordered enough ballots for 110 percent of the registered voting population, however, when someone overvotes — votes for more than one person in a race — that person can get a second or even a third ballot. In Greenfield, that problem made the ballot pile dwindle. The city did have enough ballots by the times the polls closed.

"We’ve tried to correct that," Goergen said Tuesday evening. "We don’t want that to happen a lot. We’re trying to give better instruction to the voters to avoid it. I think the big thing is voters slowing down and being careful before they move on to the next category."

Reig Magney, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Accountability Board, said Tuesday night that he was aware of only one municipality — the Madison suburb of Fitchburg — where there have been problems with overvoting. Under state law, voters are given three tries to correct cast their ballot, he said.

But other communities in the Milwaukee area are reporting problems in connection with confusion over the numerous candidates listed in the presidential race as well as the layout of the ballot. 

In Caledonia some absentee ballots had four of the seven candidates marked and some had six out of seven candidates marked, said Tootie Blaesing, the polling inspector at St. Andrew Lutheran Church. 

That ballot gets counted on the candidates that were filled out correctly, but the presidential race gets tossed out, Blaesing said. They've also had a lot of in-person ballots that were overvotes, even after the residents were told not to vote for more than one candidate.

In Whitefish Bay, more than 30 voters at the Cahill Park Pavilion polling place voted for more than one presidential candidate on the ballot, an election official said. The most common error was people casting their ballot for either Romney or Obama, skipping over the several independent candidates, and then connecting the arrow in the write-in candidate field at the bottom of the presidential section of the ballot. 

Whenever this happens, the voting machine would spit out the ballot, and the election inspectors would coach the voters on how to cast a new ballot.

"If overvoting occurred with an absentee ballot the vote was thrown out," said Bayside Chief Election Officer Emily Vaill Pfaff. "We gave voters who had overvoted three chances to vote correctly, only one needed all three attempts."

At the Fox Point Police Department polling place, Chief Election Inspector Elizabeth Friedman said there have been 26 cases where people required a new ballot. She didn’t how many were over votes, but did say that overvotes were among the spoiled ballots. 

In Port Washington, Deputy Clerk Susan Westerbeke said the city has had few overvoting issues, and the problems generally stemmed from the abundance of candidates listed in the presidential election. In Greendale, overvoting was also a problem early in the day.

 — Local Editors Jeff Rummage, Viviana Buzo, Denise Lockwood, Dave Cotey, and reporters Kyle Zittel and John Kroeger contributed to this report.

Bob McBride November 07, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Under state law, voters are given three tries to correct cast their ballot, he said. ***************************** I wonder how many burn up all 3 shots at it and still can't get it right.
Steve ® November 07, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Typical Obama voters
Cricket November 07, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Perhaps if it takes 3 times and you still can't do it you shouldn't be voting period.
Gary Tefft November 08, 2012 at 01:55 PM
According to Bayside Chief Election Officer Emily Vaill Pfaff, as stated in the article. "We gave voters who had overvoted three chances to vote correctly, only one needed all three attempts."
Bob McBride November 08, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Not really what I was wondering about, but thanks.

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