Hit or miss early voting in rural Wisconsin – or just Marquette County?

Dear Wisconsinites: Were your local polls open for early voting today in Wisconsin?

The polls in the Town of Shields in rural Marquette County were closed when Sandy Becker stopped by on the 2nd to last early voting day – Thursday.

Sandy contacted me online and on the phone and described the scene.

The town hall’s  doors were locked and an 8 1/2″ by 11″ piece of paper that listed all voters who were sent an absentee ballot was tacked to the front door.  The sheet did not list a clerk phone number or mention appointment options.

The population of Shields was 456 at the 2000 census.  Before you blow this post off as insignificant,cosmopolitan readers, consider if you will that 30% of Wisconsin’s population lives in towns.  How the vote is conducted in these tiny towns is a big deal.


Sandy knew about early voting  by reading about it on the net but she also had taken the extra step of calling  Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board office about a week and a half ago to confirm early voting dates: October 22 – November 2.

[Take note -due to WI GOP legislative action there’s no more day before election Tuesday voting and you lost about 2 weeks of early vote time this year as compared to previous years.]

After finding the doors locked at the town clerk office, Sandy called her county clerk who told her that she could make an appointment with the local clerk Patrick Tierney to vote.  Sandy said she wasn’t interested due to another situation, which I will describe later in this post.

Sandy next called the GAB and left a message. Within an hour she received a return call in which she learned that clerk offices – which serve as early voting poll sites in Wisconsin  – are supposed to be open every day until 5PM during the early voting period or clerks may post a phone number on their doors so that voters know how to reach them for further assistance.  Clerks may also delegate responsibility for manning the early voting polls to others such as workers.

Sandy told me by phone, “That’s not the way voting is supposed to be.  If you’re supposed to be available until 5 then you have to be available until 5 and if you’re not going to be there then maybe you don’t need to be doing the job”.


Sandy is filing a formal complaint with the GAB tonight through their web site and she’ll stand in line to vote in person next week Tuesday.

“We live in a community that is very small and very red but I know I’m not the only new person here.  So how does somebody who’s never voted here before and they have a screwy work schedule – they go to the polling place and it’s locked, and there’s no number to call – What do they do?, ” Sandy said.

If you see something at a poll site that doesn’t pass the smell test or obstructs your vote, there are a couple of things you can do.

You can call or email the Wisconsin GAB.

You could reach out to the Wisconsin Election Protection on their facebook page, or via their phone number 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

From the WEP About page, “We are affiliated with the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights, ACLU-Wisconsin, AFL-CIO and many other entities.”

Note: Expect this post to feature additional information from GAB and/or WEP in the near future. I would call Mr. Tierney, but from what Sandy tells me,  he really does not like to receive phone calls.

June Recall and Absentee Ballots

Sandy says she already had a bad experience with her local clerk before the June recall election when she called him to get absentee ballots. She called on a Thursday night to request an absentee ballot for her and her husband and got no response so she then called the following night and got no response.  She waited over the weekend and got no return call.  She then called on Monday.  On the bright side,  Mr. Tierney finally picked up the phone. On the down side, he delivered insulting words to Sandy which she relayed to me blow by blow as if they were seared into memory.  To roughly paraphrase, he told her she’d greatly inconvenienced him, that she would get her ballots when she got them, and he told her she needed “her hand held”.

She then called the GAB directly about her missing ballots and spoke with her county clerk as well.  Through discussions with both parties she realized that Tierney told GAB he sent her ballots on one day when he simply couldn’t have. She reviewed the postmark of the envelope when the ballots did get to her and confirmed that Tierney had dissembled. Sandy filed a complaint and submitted all she had documented to the GAB.


Polls seen through a glass door - locked in an office on early voting day. Town of Shields, Marquette County, Wisconsin. November 1, 2012.


4 thoughts on “Hit or miss early voting in rural Wisconsin – or just Marquette County?

  1. Government in Marquette county is shoddy at best. I have to call several people to get basic questions answered, and was never made aware that there even was early voting. And I have no idea how I could have gotten an absentee ballot. Early voting or absentee ballot would have been a lot easier for me than going tomorrow.

  2. I tried to vote early in the village of Pepin, WI but was told by our clerk that, “We’re not set up for that kind of thing.” As if voting itself were that kind of thing. I felt I had inconvenienced her by even asking, but then as I was leaving the office another resident of the village came in and asked about early voting, too, so I felt better.

  3. This really is completely unacceptable. Our village clerk often keeps irregular hours (due to having to attend a lot of night meetings), but she has made it a point to be in her office every day from 8 – 5 during the early voting period. She is absolutely meticulous about getting out absentee ballots, and tracking their return. And our village is only 800. This guy shouldn’t be allowed to have anything to do with elections. Absolutely not in compliance with GAB rules.

    Unfortunately, the legislature has given GAB very little enforcement poser.

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