New federal law may force Wisconsin to switch its primary election date

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May 11, 2010

By Kyle Maichle

LA CROSSE, Wisconsin: The State of Wisconsin may have to switch the date of its primary election in order to have the state be in compliance with a new federal law requiring when uniformed services officers receive their absentee ballots.[1]

Under the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act or also known as MOVE, voters that are members of the uniformed services must receive their absentee ballots 45 days before the general election. Wisconsin may be forced to switch its primary election date to the summer months due to a provision in the MOVE Act that requires states to have their elections certified no later than 45 days before the general election. Wisconsin has their primary scheduled for September 14th, but because the state requires local elections officials to certify its primary results by September 28th forces the state of risking non-compliance with the new federal law.[1]

State Representative Mike Huebsch (R-West Salem) said to members of the La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce that moving the statewide primary to the summer months could face the prospects of a "horrible turnout" according to the Representative. The La Crosse Area lawmaker suggested merging the spring general and fall primary elections as a possible solution. However, Rep. Huebsch further stated to Chamber members that changing the campaign finance filing deadlines and state legislative sessions would be a possible consequence if the primary dates are changed.[1]

The State of Minnesota who traditionally has their primary in September, moved its primary date to August 10, 2010, in order to be compliance with the law.[1] Reid Magney, a Public Information Officer for the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, said that: "Wisconsin and ten other states who have their primary elections in September will have their laws reviewed by the federal government to determine if they are in compliance with the law." Magney also stated: "that the Wisconsin will look into emailing or faxing military ballots," but ruled out about letting uniformed service members vote over the internet which is allowed in some states.

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