Legislature looks at need for email absentee ballots

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Do voters need their ballots emailed to them? Legislators are now debating whether it's necessary, or even possible.

Emailing absentee ballots isn't new. In fact, it's done all the time for the military and overseas voters. But, state democrats say email availability should be extended to everyone.

City clerks say most people vote the day of the election. And if they're out of town, they'll fill out their ballot early at the city clerk's office, voting absentee. Some democrats in the state legislature say there should be more options.

“I support the idea that clerks should be able to email out ballots. People are using email today instead of the post office. It’s a fast, easy way to get information,” says State Senator Kathleen Vinehout.

Though clerks could email a ballot to you, you'd still have to print it out and email it in. And while the Eau Claire City Clerk says it can cut time down for sending to military and overseas voters, it might not be easier for all voters.

“Actually, on the voters part, it's actually easier for them if they vote in person on election day. Or, if that doesn’t work, in person absentee. That way, the material is all there printed out for them, they don't have to print anything out and make sure that they follow the directions specifically so their ballot is counted,” says Eau Claire City Clerk Donna Austad.

Some republicans say certain municipalities, especially smaller towns in rural areas, aren't ready yet to get the ballots out via email.

“It's a problematic issue that just isn't ready for prime time. With the risk of the bill being unconstitutional, I feel that at this time, we don't do the email ballots and it would still allow everyone in the state to be able to vote. There's ample opportunity,” says Republican State Senator Mary Lazich, the author of the bill.

Lazich says the bill has passed the senate with a provision that email ballots would be permitted for military and overseas voters, but not widely condoned with other voters in the state.

Austad says the timeliest issue in that specific bill that concerns her is the September primary being moved to August. She says she hopes the legislature moves quickly, so clerks will have enough time to plan.

The bill has been passed in the senate, and now sits in the assembly waiting for debate. Senators on both sides say they expect swift action to be taken.

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