EAU CLAIRE — Nearly 40% of Eau Claire voters who were mailed absentee ballots for today’s election had not returned them by Monday morning, according to statistics from the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
If they hadn’t mailed them already, those voters either needed to get them into the city’s ballot drop boxes by 7 a.m. this morning or bring them to the polls today.
“They need to be in our hands at the close of polls on Election Day,” Eau Claire City Clerk Carrie Riepl said.
All 20 of Eau Claire’s polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, using public health precautions that have been in place since the COVID-19 pandemic began last spring.
“We are following all the same procedures we implemented in 2020,” Riepl said.
Those include poll workers wearing face masks, voters encouraged to do the same, supplies sterilized between uses and allowing voters to request a ballot be brought to their vehicle parked outside the polling place by calling a phone number posted at its entrance.
As it has been since the pandemic began, absentee and early voting was popular for this election.
The 4,779 absentee ballots sought by Eau Claire voters is about double what the city sees before similar April elections when there are state and local races, but not a presidential primary, Riepl said.
Of this election’s total amount of Eau Claire absentee ballots, 1,244 of them were cast by people using the drive-thru voting site that operated during the past two weeks behind City Hall.
The other 3,535 absentee ballots were mailed out to Eau Claire voters, but a significant amount had not been received by Monday morning by local elections officials.
According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, 2,099 of those had been received by 7 a.m. Monday, and Riepl said another 50 came in the mail that morning.
That still left nearly 1,400 absentee ballots that were not returned by Monday morning.
For voters who held onto their absentee ballots, they can still bring theirs to polling places today to count in the election. However, those ballots must be completed, sealed in the envelope that came with them and the outside of that needs to be signed by the voter and a witness before taking it into the polling place.
Voters who have a blank absentee ballot can come to the polls today and vote, but must destroy the ballot they already received before getting a new one from poll workers to cast in the election.
Riepl is expecting about 35% voter turnout in the city, which is typical for an April election that doesn’t fall on a presidential election year. The city does have enough ballots to accommodate up to 40% turnout, she said.
Today’s ballots include races for Eau Claire City Council, Eau Claire school board, an appeals court judge seat and the state superintendent of public instruction.
Elsewhere in the Chippewa Valley, voters in towns, villages, school districts and cities also have contests on their ballots.
There are competitive races for town board seats in Anson, Bridge Creek, Brunswick, Clear Creek, Cleveland, Colfax, Edson, Goetz, Howard, Lafayette, Sampson, Seymour, Washington, Wheaton and Wilson.
Villages of Elmwood, Fairchild and Fall Creek have competition for some seats in their governments as well. Bloomer also has a contested City Council race.
School boards of Cadott, Chetek-Weyerhaeuser, Colfax, Durand-Arkansaw, Elk Mound, Elmwood, Fall Creek, Mondovi, New Auburn and Stanley-Boyd all have multiple candidates running.
And a referendum in Chippewa Falls is asking residents whether they would prefer the city to contract with a single garbage hauler, instead of the current system where residents hire their own service provider from the multiple companies serving the area.