KENOSHA ⏤ Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian and Racine Mayor Cory Mason had a message for voters Monday: We are doing all we can to ensure safe and accurate voting.

The two local mayors joined three of their counterparts ⏤ Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee, Eric Genrich of Green Bay and Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway of Madison ⏤ for a press conference Monday.

At the conference, the mayors announced what each city is doing to ensure swift and safe voting.

They also announced a challenge to see which city receives the highest percentage of early voters. Those numbers will be updated on each city’s website daily.

Kenosha

“One of the important aspects for all of us has been how do we make sure our communities are safe and how do we make sure that people have the right to vote, and get out to vote because of this pandemic,” Antaramian said. 

“So, it’s been very important to us to try to change some of the things that we’ve done.”

As a result, the city has added drop boxes around the city for residents to turn in absentee ballots. He called the move a “huge success.”

“The city has added drop boxes throughout the community so that people don’t have to mail their ballot in, but can actually stop and drop off the ballots at these drop boxes,” he said.

“They’re protected; they’re safe; they are monitored. And so we wanted to make sure that everyone knew that’s one of the things that was very, very important.”

Drive-thru early voting

Officials also established drive-thru early voting at the Kenosha Municipal Building, 625 52nd St. Antaramian believes this, too, has helped drive up early voting numbers.

“Everything we have done as a group, and I probably shouldn’t speak for everyone else, is how we can make sure that people have access to voting and that it’s safe,” he said.

The city has made sure the polls are well staffed, the mayor said. Officials have also purchased new equipment so votes can be counted quickly on Election Day.

“The things that need to be done to make sure this election will move quickly and swiftly and that the people have access and accuracy, those are the things we’ve been working on,” Antaramian said.

According to Antaramian, Kenosha so far is expected to have 30,000 ballots early/absentee ballots to count on Nov. 3.

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Racine

Racine has taken many of the same steps as Kenosha, Mason said.

Mason and others mayors started meeting and comparing notes after the April election. For months, they’ve worked together to come up with methods of successful, easy voting for November.

“It’s really been a great collaboration to talk to other mayors about what strategies they’re using to efficiently run their cities. And certainly elections and the pandemic are front and center.” 

Racine has set up10 early voting locations in the city through Sunday. Sixteen early voting drop boxes are also available around the city. Officials have also installed plexiglass, and PPE is available at polling locations.

‘Government doing two things’

“At the end of the day, this is really about government doing two things that are really important: No. 1, keeping people healthy and safe, which is a challenge in the midst of a pandemic,” Mason said. “No. 2, running free and fair elections.

“So we take both of those responsibilities very, very seriously at this time, and think we have learned from one another. And that collaboration’s really been a great opportunity for all of us.”

With reports nationally about voter intimidation at the polls, Mason and other mayors ensured that voters will be kept safe.

“Certainly, we plan on taking steps making sure that on Election Day people are able to vote safely,” Mason said. “Be that dealing with COVID or any form of intimidation that might exist there.”

Wisconsin law prevents counting absentee ballots before Nov. 3

Another challenge Barrett pointed out is that absentee ballots can’t be counted until Election Day under law in Wisconsin.

“This is something whether you’re in a Democrat-controlled part of the state or a Republican-controlled part of the state. Clerks around the state have asked our Legislature to change this, and they haven’t done so.”

“This is still very much on the plate to have changed. Again, we’re one of the few states that does not allow us to count these ballots early, and that clearly has to be changed.”

Antaramian also voiced his support for changing the law, which puts a burden on local clerks’ offices. 

“The Legislature does need to change how we’re doing this,” he said. “Because we’re going to have close to over 30,000 ballots early voting. And it would be helpful for us to do a similar type of situation to be able to count them sooner rather than later.”

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Daniel Thompson is an independent journalist and the founder of The Uptown Observer based in the Kenosha, Wis., area. He started in journalism at the Western Nebraska Observer in 2012 and, most notably,...