The fate of the April 7 election seemed to change minute by minute just days before it would be held, but in Waunakee, the village clerk and staff proceeded with the assumption that it would occur all along.
Village Clerk Caitlin Stene, who had recently returned after maternity leave, described the extraordinary measures her assistant, Laurie Helt, had taken to make it so.
The latest directives from the Wisconsin Election Commission and state Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers order to postpone the election. Now absentee ballots must be postmarked by April 7 and received by village clerks by April 13. It was a change to what the judge ruled last week.
“Every second you get different guidance,” Stene said, noting that polls were to be open at the Village Center from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. She advised those voting in person to bring their own black ball point pens. If not, voters would be provided with a pen to then take home. Voters were advised to sanitize or wash their hands upon entering the polling place and to practice social distancing, to leave promptly after the election, and refrain from bringing children to the polls.
The number of absentee ballots requested may be unprecedented. Stene said the village had issued 5,000 absentee ballots this spring. In the 2016 election, the village had just shy of 5,500 voters.
As for election night results, clerks are forbidden from publishing preliminary numbers before April 13.
Stene thanked Helt and all the poll workers who showed up to run the polling place.
“Multiple village departments have come forward to offer their assistance,” she said.
Poll workers were wearing personal protective equipment, and the logistics at the village center had changed, with registration upstairs and separate staircases to the different polling places within the building.