Grant money to help municipalities in SE WI cover unexpected elections costs during pandemic

Posted at 6:31 PM, Oct 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-27 10:26:55-04

MUKWONAGO — More than $1.4 million is headed to southeastern Wisconsin to help cover unexpected election costs amid the pandemic.

This federal money is only given to cities, towns and villages that applied for it. Municipalities approved for CARES Act election grants will receive more than a dollar for each registered voter, but some towns won’t get a dime because they missed the deadline.

Creating a safe voting environment is a priority in every election, but it comes at a hefty price during the pandemic. From covering the postage for a record number of absentee ballots to additional precautions at the polls like plexiglass, municipal clerks say they weren’t fully prepared for the unexpected costs.

“We’re in a new environment, a new era,” said Mukwonago treasurer Diana Dykstra.

That’s why Dykstra made sure to apply for the Federal CARES Act election grant which will bring more than $6,000 to her town to purchase a secure dropbox for absentee ballots.

“So if they received the absentee ballot at home, they bring it back to us in the dropbox and we’ve had an excellent return,” Dykstra said.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission distributes these grants. Each municipality that applied will receive $200, plus $1.10 for each registered voter. That’s why Milwaukee will get more than $323,000 which will all go toward absentee postage costs.

“We’ve already got 112,000 voters in the bank as you will,” Mayor Tom Barrett said.

The city of Franklin is using its $24,500 grant for a variety of things including extra personnel at the polls.

“Each year, the budget’s approved in November of the prior year with the expectation of how many elections are going to be run etc. So when all these extra costs come in, that’s basically an extra burden on the taxpayers,” said Franklin Administrator Peggy Steeno.

Several smaller municipalities in southeastern Wisconsin won’t receive this grant simply because they didn’t apply. Elm Grove in Waukesha County blames a change in clerks for missing the deadline.

The village of Raymond’s clerk in Racine County said she ran out of time. In an email to TMJ4 News, clerk Linda Terry said, “This election year has been just awful, especially for smaller municipalities with the full-time Clerk being the only person in the office.”

“ I am fortunate enough to have some really super part-time deputy clerks that have come in to help with the in-person absentee voters," Terry said. "However, some people just don’t understand that there’s also meeting agendas to get ready; bills to pay; and we are in the middle of the whole budgeting process.”

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