An hour after the polls closed Tuesday, a double line of about 75 residents still waited to vote at Racine Assembly of God in Mount Pleasant. A number of new voters were also waiting to register before casting their ballot.
Village Clerk Stephanie Kohlhagen acknowledged residents’ frustration with the wait but said she wanted to focus on the high – and unexpected – turn out.
“Yes, people are having to wait, and I’m sorry about that,” she said. “But the plus side is that we have a huge turnout.”
Election observers at the church – some of whom are special registered deputies who can step in to help in situations where poll workers are overwhelmed – say they offered multiple times to help move the registration process along but were rebuffed.
Kohlhagen said she called both the Government Accountability Board and county election officials to be sure her operation was running appropriately.
“I have spoken with the GAB and the county and they say we’re not doing anything wrong,” she stated. “This is a big turnout, and everyone has the right to vote so we will make sure everyone in this line gets to vote.”
Still, that same group said they are looking into filing a complaint with the GAB, and possibly the Department of Justice as well, over the long wait times and the mismanagement of the election.
Jennifer, who didn’t want Racine County Eye using her last name, said she waited one hour, 58 minutes to cast her ballot.
“I just don’t understand why it took so long,” she said. “They just didn’t seem to have the staff necessary to handle the crowd and a lot of people waiting in line needed accommodation.”
Another couple had visited the church earlier in the day when the wait was 90 minutes, so they left and returned, hoping for a shorter wait. But, because they arrived well after 8 p.m., they were not allowed to take their place in line.
Kohlhagen apologized but said her hands were tied and that she will work on finding additional polling locations for the April 2015 election to spread residents out more evenly.
“I will get to work on that for spring,” she said. “Unfortunately, if you leave and come back after the polls close, I can’t do anything because I am bound by the laws of the State of Wisconsin.”