City of Eau Claire opens parking lot for drive-thru absentee voting

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The City of Eau Claire has opened drive-thru absentee voting in the parking lot of City Hall in an effort to create a safer voting process for the April 7 election.

Governor Evers has said the April 7 election will not be changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and polling places are exempt from his “Safer at Home” executive order. However, people are encouraged to vote absentee to limit social interaction.

“The state of Wisconsin has indicated that the elections are on and we are doing everything we can to ensure our residents that they have access to an election process and we are doing what we can to have an election that not only protects the health of the poll workers and employees but also the voters who are coming to exercise their constitutional rights,” says City Manager Dale Peters.

The drive-thru is located in the parking lot on Farwell Street with an entrance on Dewey Street.

People who have not already requested an absentee ballot can use the drive-thru to both register to vote and fill out an absentee ballot without leaving their cars. Voters will need to bring a photo ID to vote along with proof of address if they also need to register to vote.

“We are doing this to keep our voters and poll workers safe so we can have social distancing and stay healthy,” says City Clerk Carrie Riepl.
Workers at the drive-thru are taking social distancing along with other precautions to protect against COVID-19.

“Voters stay in their cars at all times, we are sanitizing all the pens and when we are talking to people through their windows we are asking them to keep the windows down only two to three inches to hand the clipboard back,” Riepl says.

The drive-thru will be open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Anyone can use the drive-thru to vote absentee but for people without a Wisconsin driver’s license or people without the ability to register online, it is the only option to avoid the April 7 polls.

Even with the drive-thru, the city prefers people vote with an absentee mail-in ballot which can be requested online at myvote.wi.gov. The date to register to vote online has also been extended to March 30 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the city, more than 500 people have already used the drive-thru.

If you have already requested a mail-in absentee ballot, the city asks that you wait for it in the mail and do not come through the drive-thru. People who do not have a car are able to walk or bike through the drive-thru as well.

Peters says the city is still working on ways to create a safe environment for the polling places on April 7.