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Clerks warn GOP primary plan ‘impossible’ to implement

November 20, 2018

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Local clerks are balking at Republican plans to move Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential primary, saying it would create so many headaches it would be impossible to implement.

Two elections are currently scheduled for spring 2020 — a February primary for conservative state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly’s seat and local offices and an April general election. The presidential primary is scheduled to be part of the April general election, but Republican leaders are mulling whether to move the presidential primary to March. They’re afraid the presidential primary will draw so many Democrats to the polls in April that Kelly could lose.

GOP legislative leaders are considering passing a bill to move the presidential contest during a lame-duck session before the end of the year. Outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker supports the idea.

Clerks told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that creating a third election in a three-month span would be a logistical nightmare.

They say they would have to process absentee ballots for different elections simultaneously, running the risk that some ballots would get lost. Poll workers also would have to work an extra election, a dicey proposition since recruitment is already difficult, the clerks said.

Some clerks would have to buy more memory cards for voting machines to preserve results for one election while programming the devices for the next contest.

Voters also would be confused, they said.

“From my perspective, it would be virtually impossible for any county clerk to do all we need to get ready from an election in that scenario,” Waukesha County Clerk Kathleen Novack said of adding a March 2020 election. “There isn’t anyone among the 72 county clerks who thinks it even has a shred of a possibility to be done logistically.”

Thirty-four county clerks released a joint statement Tuesday warning that there’s not enough time to sandwich in a March election and that it would cost millions of dollars.

“Republican lawmakers ... will be extremely hard-pressed to find a county clerk, Republican and Democratic alike, or a nonpartisan municipal clerk, who thinks this is a good policy change, or frankly, even doable,” the statement said.

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