How a nationwide paper shortage may impact Wisconsin elections
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A paper shortage affecting the U.S. is weighing on the minds of some election officials in Wisconsin as clerks around the state prepare for the upcoming August primary and November general election when voters will pick their next U.S. senator and governor.
"Just like there are shortages and supply chain issues with computers and technology, we're also seeing that with paper supplies so that's something we'll keep working with the local clerks on," Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe told reporters during a media availability on Thursday, July 14.
Officials at the federal level sounded the alarm of the issue earlier this year, including an alert from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and a roundtable held by members of the House Administration Committee. Wisconsin Congressman Bryan Steil (R - Janesville) sits on the committee.
"What we don't want to do is have a problem as we approach the election," Rep. Steil told CBS 58. "One of the things is that paper ballots are a pretty unique type of paper, it's not your average everyday type of paper that you can just snag off the shelf which is good because it provides election integrity but it's challenging for the suppliers."
The issue of the paper shortage became top of mind of election officials early in the year when they were notified.
"We were alerted to the paper shortage earlier this year and we sprang into action and ordered over 1,000 reams of paper and a high quantity of absentee envelopes so thankfully we have a big supply on hand," New Berlin City Clerk Rubina Medina told CBS 58 in an email. "I know that some municipal clerks are facing delays and shortages as they try to order paper."
Medina added some clerks are taking steps to try to save paper however they can.
"I was just speaking to a few municipal clerks and we are all trying to make little changes to conserve paper such as encouraging voters to register to vote and request the absentee ballot online using the My Vote Wisconsin website," Medina said.
But Milwaukee County officials are confident in the steps they took in the spring to get ready for the August and November elections.
"We were prepared," Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson told CBS 58 in an interview. "We were aware of the paper shortage."
Christenson said the county got ahead of the curve in working with its supplier, Menomonee Falls-based Burton & Mayer, to order the more than 900,000 ballots needed for the entire county for the primary and general elections.
Christenson said he is more concerned about recent court rulings affecting the use of ballot drop boxes and overall voter accessibility.
"Those are the things we're concerned about is educating the voters on how they can get out there to vote and vote and vote safely," Christenson said. "Paper won't be an issue."
City of Milwaukee election officials told CBS 58 in a phone call their supplies are in good shape, having been made aware of the shortage earlier this year and acting quickly to address it.
Milwaukee Elections Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg said the city ordered 170,000 ballots for the August primary and 250,000 ballots for the November general election. By the end of the year, Woodall-Vogg said the city will have gone through some 120,000 envelopes for absentee ballots.