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Turnout high, new registrations exceed expectations on election day


UNDATED (WSAU) -  Voter turnout is “fantastic” in some places, “very good” in others. So far, it’s been a steady stream of voters at the polls.

In Stevens Point, 8th District Election Official Patricia Bohanski at Washington School says they had 1,703 registered voters when they started, and they’re getting many new voter registrations as the day goes on. Bohanski says they have over 400 absentee ballots to count in their district. She says that and the steady stream of voters should lead to a high turnout percentage.

Wausau’s District 9 & 11 Election Official Kathleen Burkhardt says they’re getting a lot of voters, but she’s not sure if it will be more than they had in 2008. Burkhardt says she is surprised at the higher number of new voter registrations from people who have not voted in the district before. “We’ve had quite a few new registrants. I didn’t really expect that because so many people registered for the recall.”

One voter that chose to remain anonymous told WSAU that Weston was busy this morning.  He was the 147th voter only forty minutes after the polls opened.

Kevin Kennedy is the Director of the Government Accountability Board. He says most everything is going smoothly so far. Kennedy says they’ve had nothing out of the ordinary. “Machines are overworked, so they may jam or have to get ballots straightened out in them. It’s pretty well behaved at the polling place. Long lines, but not a lot of interference being created by the observers by trying to be too helpful or too nit-picky, so that seems to be a good sign.”

Kennedy says they had an incident in the Milwaukee area where a well-meaning business wanted to offer a free or discounted item to customers wearing their “I Voted” sticker. Kennedy tells businesses, “Don’t do it.” There may be a lot of businesses trying to foster participation in the election, but it is illegal to offer anything over a dollar to someone for voting. That’s still true when the business doesn’t know how the person voted. “It’s really just a question of drawing a line on this, because if you say it’s OK for a discounted sandwich or a free drink, all of a sudden the line starts to move. It’s better to have a bright line and say just don’t do it.”

Polls close at 8:00 p.m. Tuesday evening. Poll workers are encouraging people to go early, but you will be counted if you’re still in line when the polls close.