County voters favor incumbents in local and state contested races
There were a few surprises and some technical glitches Monday as votes from the April 7 spring election were tallied and announced.
By federal court order, the election results were held until April 13 in order to allow absentee ballots that had been mailed prior to the election to arrive at polling places. Only those ballots that had been postmarked before the election were counted. Voting rights groups around the state have criticized the Wisconsin Election Commission’s decision to not allow to be counted ballots which were mailed, but did not receive a postmark. Prior to the election a federal court judge had set the April 13 date for the ballots to be counted and had directed that any ballots received prior to 4 p.m. that day should be counted. The U.S. Supreme Court, answering a lastminute appeal filed by the Wisconsin Republican Party, ruled only those ballots postmarked or delivered by election day could be counted.
Statewide, the headline race leading into the election was billed to be the presidential preference primary between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders on the Democrat ticket. Biden was the overwhelming favorite among county Democrats with 1,147 votes to Sanders’ 321 votes. The outcome of the Wisconsin primary was rendered meaningless as Sanders announced last week, before ballots had been counted, that he was suspending his campaign and putting his support behind Biden.
In the Republican primary Donald Trump received 3,185 votes with 26 votes for “uninstructed delegate.”
The major state race on the ballot was the election of a State Supreme Court justice to a 10-year term.
Jill Karofsky, a circuit court judge in Dane County was elected with a statewide vote of 55% (856,470 votes) to 45% (692,976 votes) for incumbent justice Daniel Kelly. Kelly had received heavy backing from the state Republican party including an endorsement from President Trump for the ostensibly nonpartisian office. Karofsky had received support and endorsements from the state and national Democratic party.
Voters in Taylor County bucked the state trend and were firmly behind Kelly who received 3,292 votes to Karofsky’s 1,624 votes.
“Over the past several months I’ve talked about the need to restore the public’s confidence in our judicial system. With this victory, I look forward to the opportunity to show, with my actions on the court, that we have a judiciary that is following the rule of law and applying it fairly to everyone in our state. Now, more than ever, we need to instill confidence in our institutions and I’m honored to be a part of that,” Karofsky said in a statement Monday night.
In addition to the State Supreme Court, the voters across the state were asked to weigh in on a constitutional amendment to grant additional rights to victims of crimes. County voters followed the rest of the state in approving it by an overwhelming margin. There were 3,569 votes in favor and 1,200 votes opposed. Statewide the amendment passed with 75% of the total vote in favor compared to 25% opposed.
In addition to state races, the spring election had votes for county, municipal and school boards.
City of Medford voters went to the polls last week knowing that whatever the outcome, the mayor’s first name would continue to be Mike. As it turned out incumbent mayor Mike Wellner was reelected with 575 votes to challenger Mike Bub’s 425 votes. Bub currently serves on the city council as an alderman and also serves on the Taylor County Board.
In other city races, incumbent aldermen Dave Brandner, Christine Weix and Clem Johnson were elected without opposition. Tim Hansen was elected to replace alderman Peggy Kraschnewski. Hansen also serves on the Taylor County Board.
In the village of Rib Lake voters elected Claff Mann with 158 votes, Jack Buksa with 145 votes and Vernell Van Hecker with 138 votes. They were all incumbents on the village board. There were six write-in votes cast.
In the village of Stetsonville, voters were asked to choose two out of the three candidates on the ballot. Winning election were Joseph Dowden with 83 votes and William McCarron with 72 votes. Adam Schnabel received 57 votes.
Fro the Gilman Village Board, voters were asked to pick three of four candidates on the ballot. Winning seats were Mike Kinas with 79 votes, Cheryl Rosemeyer with 88 votes, and Ericka Bertsinger with 48 votes. Douglas Alexander received 43 votes.
There were no surprises for the Taylor County Board as all incumbents were running unopposed and were reelected with only a smattering of write-in votes throughout the county.
There will be two new faces on the Medford School Board following the April 7 election.
Steve Deml, Jr. and John Zuleger will join incumbent Brian Hallgren on the board. Hallgren was the highest vote getter with 2,298 votes followed by Zuleger with 1,935 votes and Deml with 1,924 votes. Incumbent Barb Knight was unsuccessful in seeking reelection with 1,615 votes. Write-in candidate Alex Zenner received 62 votes in the race with another nine write-ins.
On the Rib Lake School board, Jason Dananay was reelected with 577 votes to represent the village of Rib Lake and Nicole Scheller was reelected with 550 votes to represent the towns of Hill and Spirit.
For the Gilman School Board, voters were asked to pick four candidates with Valorie Kulesa receiving 534 votes, Matthew Chaplinksi receiving 499 votes, Jessica Wisocky receiving 476 votes and Bruce Ewings Sr. receiving 418 votes. Chris Skabroud running as a registered write-in candidate received 235 votes.
While the election counting process went smoothly throughout most of the county, the city of Medford ran into issues with the vote tabulation equipment which delayed the count being released until later in the evening.
According to city clerk Virginia Brost, the issue was with the absentee ballots, which must be folded to be mailed, getting jammed in the M100 vote tabulation equipment. The city, along with the rest of the county, is awaiting new election equipment. The purchase of the new equipment was approved last fall.
According to Brost, the issues led to a number of ballots having to be remade in order to be fed through the machine. This process involves two poll workers who use a new ballot to duplicate the damaged ballot. The new ballot is marked as being remade and initialed by both of the poll workers. The original ballot is then marked as having been remaded and kept on file with other remade ballots in case of recounts or the election results being contested. “We had to do quite a few,” Brost said, noting the process took a long time. She said the high volume of absentee ballots contributed to the issue, noting she estimated there were about three times more absentee ballots than there were in-person walk in ballots cast.
Looking ahead to the May 12 special election and the number of absentee ballots which have been requested for that race, Brost said the city would be hand counting the ballots.
She reminds people that May 8 is last day to request an absentee ballot for the May 12 electio