Area leaders expecting low in-person turnout for August primary with sharp increase in absentee voting

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MILWAUKEE COUNTY (CBS 58) -- We are one week away from the August primary election, and on Tuesday, Aug. 4, more than 13 pallets of PPE were distributed to Milwaukee County municipalities from the state.

While municipalities in the county are preparing for a safe election, area leaders are expecting a low in-person voter turnout on Aug. 11, because absentee seems to be the popular way to go.

The Milwaukee County Election Commission says so far more than 150,000 ballots have been mailed out in the county, and a third of them have come back.

“It’s a huge difference with what was in 2016 as well as 2012,” said Julietta Henry, Elections Director for Milwaukee County.

“We hope that people vote absentee because of just the climate we’re in, in terms of safety and security for people’s family and their loved ones,” said Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson.

The City of Milwaukee has also seen a sharp increase in the amount of absentee ballots being sent out.

“We’ve had 75,000 absentee by mail requests that have already been fulfilled, that is a 1000% increase over a normal August primary before a November election,” said Tom Barrett, mayor of Milwaukee.

Mayor Tom Barrett says he doesn’t expect to see long lines in polling sites on Aug. 11. The county will have 253 total polling places.

“Obviously you are seeing an incredible change in how people are voting in our community,” said Mayor Barrett.  

“Keeping distance from people around you, minimizing how long you’re close to somebody else and certainly without a doubt wearing a mask,” advised Dr. Ben Weston, Medical Director for Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

Henry expects this election to be smoother than the one in April.

“We were able to do the same thing, but it was just a different flow, so this time we’re more fluid with it, we’re making sure we know how to calculate who gets what so we have everything ready to go,” added Henry.

“As Milwaukee County we are prepared, and we’ll definitely be having a different way of streaming than we did this past April election to make sure people are getting live results,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley.

This primary comes with extra precaution, Christenson says there will be frequent sanitation, signage encouraging social distancing and masking, and every voter will get their own pen. On Tuesday, county municipalities picked up boxes of PPE with masks, sanitizers, pens and paper towels in preparation.

“We had over 13 pallets of PPE delivered and to give you some idea, I mean that’s hundreds of thousands of items, for example, we had over 62-thousand pens delivered,” added Christenson.

Christenson says if you haven’t mailed your absentee at this point, you should drop it off at your clerk’s office to make sure your vote counts.

“Make sure you do it properly and you have a witness and follow all the rules very carefully,” Christenson said.

“Make sure you get your ballot back to your location, your municipality the day of the election. They must be in the clerk’s office the day of the election,” added Henry.

If you do decide to vote in person, Henry says to double check your polling place because it may have changed due to the pandemic.

For more information on voting in Milwaukee County, click here.

For voting information for the state of Wisconsin, click here.


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