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Saturday, February 28, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 1.0° F  Fair
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Absentee ballots missing school referendum

Carole McGuire of Madison recently tried to vote absentee, but she noticed something wrong with her ballot: "It didn't have the school referendum on it."

McGuire, a former County Board supervisor, says her son, who lives at the same address in south Madison, received the correct absentee ballot.

Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl explains: "There are eight school districts in the city of Madison and quite a few wards that are split into two school districts. When we run the labels for absentee ballots, the labels don't have the school districts printed on them."

The clerk's office sorts the labels by school district so people receive the correct ballots, but mistakes were made. Witzel-Behl says she's heard from half a dozen people who received the wrong ballot. She thinks it's "unlikely" that many more people were affected.

The city has sent out 13,000 absentee ballots so far. Voters who receive the wrong ballot can receive a correct one by contacting the city clerk's office.

Witzel-Behl says she's repeatedly urged the Government Accountability Board to add school district designations to the state's voter registration system, so the correct ballots are sent. "We've been asking for about two years," she says. "Other municipalities have been asking as well."

Kyle Richmond, spokesman for the Government Accountability Board, says the system already does print mailing labels with school district designations. "The school district information is supposed to be on there," he says. "As far as we know, it's working well."

But Witzel-Behl says the state's system only works for smaller municipalities, with one school district. In Madison, where wards are often split between districts, the labels "don't say the name of the school district." If it did, "that would allow us to have a double-check that the ballot is correct."

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