Dozens of community members lined up to cast fake ballots for their favorite sports teams and tailgating food Tuesday as part of a mock election conducted by the Madison City Clerk. The trial run was to prepare for the full implementation in 2012 of the Republican-backed voter ID bill.
City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl said the city is making voter ID education a top priority throughout the rest of the year, with 74 educational presentations planned. The mock election was to prepare election officials as well as voters for what to expect on a future Election Day.
"We want to make sure voters aren't surprised at the polling place next year when they show up to vote, and find out then that they need an ID, and then not have their vote count," Witzel-Behl said. "In addition to that, we need to make sure we have our election officials trained and that we know what the best procedures are to use at the polling place."
Six election scenarios were tested over the course of three hours, with a varying number of election officials assigned to each step of the voting process. The clerk's office measured how long each voter stood in line, how long it took to check in by signing the poll book and how long it took to fill out a provisional ballot.
Staff will use the information gathered Tuesday to help determine which set-up works best, Witzel-Behl said.
City election official Thomas Lund gave voters a slip of paper with three pieces of information on it: The time they joined the voting line, the time they finished voting and approximately how many people were in front of them when they arrived.
He said this is the data that will help the clerk's office plan for elections.
"The most interesting thing I have noticed is people are asking how long the line is taking, and that is the very reason we are here, so I can't really give them a solid answer," Lund said. "People were very concerned they might have to leave the line early, but the point of this is to understand that as well -- we have to be very sensitive to how much time people have on Election Day."
Witzel-Behl said the mock election was a relatively strong representation of what voters could expect to see, with election officials checking IDs, guiding voters on how to sign the poll book and issuing ballots.
"One person told me this takes about 10 times as long as it usually does at his polling place," Witzel-Behl said. "I've had some people tell me if I have to wait in line this long at the polls on Election Day, I'm not going to stay in line and consequently I won't vote."