A discussion on the upcoming elections and early voting allowed members of the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors to air their feelings on pros and cons of the issue during the board's Oct. 16 meeting. A question on the costs of satellite voting prompted the discussion.
"What are the costs of this satellite voting we're doing?" Supervisor Jerry Hofstad asked Auditor Carmen Moser.
"The costs come from programming the voting machines, the number of precincts that machines have to be set up for and the election workers," Moser answered.
Mallard Mayor Jim Gehrt, who was present in the boardroom, spoke up. "As mayor, I'm not going to tell you that Mallard is comfortable with this satellite voting. Change does not come comfortably."
Gehrt's comments referred to the satellite voting opportunity that will take place in Mallard on Oct. 30, and the fact that voters in Mallard have to cast their ballots in West Bend on Election Day, Nov. 6.
"Not being able to vote in Mallard on Election Day, the people are starting to feel that maybe their votes don't count, that they aren't important anymore," Gehrt said.
"You know, that's a common theme and I don't like it either," agreed Supervisor Ed Noonan, who cited the same situation in Ayrshire, where the voters must travel to Emmetsburg to vote on Election Day.
"I just don't like any of it," Hofstad agreed. "I still want to know the cost of it."
"The state wanted us to cut the number of polling places a few years back," Supervisor Ron Graettinger explained. "We got money for the new voting machines from the state, and part of the deal was that we had to reduce the number of polling places."
"That was the key," Noonan said. "The state gave the counties incentives to do this. So, the first town to lose its polling place was Ayrshire, and then Ruthven and Mallard."
"A polling precinct can serve up to 2,500 voters according to the Secretary of State," Moser explained. "The machine in Mallard for Ellington and Rush Lake Townships had 500 voters, so that's why the state suggested it be combined elsewhere."
"I understand that, but the feeling of the residents in Mallard is that they don't count, and that concerns me," Gehrt said.
"But they do count," Moser said.
"I know," Gehrt answered. "We're not against you, but just understand, we're not in favor of not having our own polling place."
"I can see the value of satellite voting," Graettinger agreed, "but I really think the early voting is just too early."
"I'll agree with that," Noonan said. "I've gone to call on people and they tell me they've already cast their ballot in the early voting."
The board agreed to look at the costs of adding additional polling places in the future.
Residents with questions on voting places or other voting questions should call the County Auditor's office at 712-852-2924.