Clerks accept more election duties

Others pay county to do it
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Leader Photo by Scott Williams Shawano City Clerk Karla Duchac, center, observes while administrative assistant Lisa Bruette, left, and deputy city clerk Lesley Nemetz work on getting voting equipment ready for the upcoming elections.

Leader Photo by Scott Williams Voting booths are ready at Shawano City Hall for early voting, which began this week for the Aug. 9 primary.

With election season nearly in full swing, clerks in Shawano County municipalities are adjusting to new procedures that require them to either handle more duties or pay new fees for outsourcing.

The state has implemented requirements for tracking absentee ballots in a way that places added record-keeping demands on clerks at the county and municipal level.

That comes as clerks already are working to acclimate themselves to the state’s new automated database for voter registration records.

The Shawano County clerk’s office has offered to handle the workload for town and village clerks countywide — but at a price.

Some local clerks are voicing concern that the job of tracking elections in Wisconsin is becoming overly complicated, particularly in small towns with part-time clerks.

“It’s getting out of hand,” said Kathy Luebke, clerk in the town of Maple Grove. “Enough is enough.”

The county clerk’s office will manage a town or village’s voter registration and absentee voting for a fee of 20 cents per voter, which amounts to $20 for each 100 voters within a community.

County Clerk Pam Schmidt said she looked at what other counties were charging and tried to minimize the cost for Shawano County municipalities.

“I didn’t want this to be a burdensome charge,” she said. “Overall, it isn’t much of an increase.”

The change has no impact on the city of Shawano or other municipalities that already manage their own election records, including the village of Bonduel, town of Wescott and town of Richmond. Others previously were paying the county clerk a flat fee of $25 per election to handle voter registration.

Effective this year, however, the state added the requirements of tracking and reporting absentee ballots in a way that previously applied only to overseas ballots.

Mike Haas, spokesman for the State Elections Commission, said the more complicated system has prompted some county clerks to forge new agreements with their municipalities for either sharing duties or paying for services. Haas said the broadened record-keeping demands could be especially challenging for small-town clerks not accustomed to the state’s database.

“You do have a learning curve,” he said.

About 20 towns and villages in Shawano County have opted to pay the county’s new fee for outsourced services. Among those whose clerks are trying their hand at the expanded workload, in addition to Maple Grove, are the villages of Cecil, Tigerton and Wittenberg, and the towns of Angelica, Belle Plaine, Grant, Hartland, Herman, Pella and Washington.

Angelica Town Clerk Janet Powers said the new procedures could become more challenging after the Aug. 9 primary, as activity picks up heading toward the Nov. 8 presidential election. Angelica has about 1,000 registered voters.

Powers, however, said she is confident that she and the other municipal clerks are up to the task.

“It’s added work for the clerks,” she said. “But I don’t see a problem with it.”

Richmond Town Clerk Richard Stadelman said although he already was handling the town’s voter registration, the new state mandate on tracking absentee voting adds a new wrinkle to his work routine. The same mandate applies to early voting, which began this week for the Aug. 9 primary.

Richmond has about 1,200 registered voters.

“It’s definitely more work,” Stadelman said. “We’ll do it. It’s just part of our job.”