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Friday, April 19, 2024
Voting Polls April 2 2024-2.jpg
Voting booths at Memorial Union for the Wisconsin primary photographed on April 2, 2024

Voting hours at Memorial Union extended to 9:30 p.m. due to staff error

Voting hours will be extended from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Memorial Union today after union front desk staff mistakenly turned voters away.

Voting hours will be extended from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Memorial Union today after staff mistakenly turned voters away from the polling site. The change will affect voters in Wards 60 and 134.

Front desk staff, who were not poll workers, mistakenly told people entering the building there was “no voting taking place” at Memorial Union between 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m., according to the Madison Clerk’s office.

According to Izzie Behl, chief election inspector at the polling site, voting signs were turned the wrong way and taken down in Memorial Union around 3:53 p.m. An observer reported this to the Wisconsin Union building manager’s office and was told that voting was not happening, according to Behl.

“It was just one big miscommunication. The signs were down and unreadable for about 10 minutes,” Behl said.

Voting continued during the time, but some potential voters were told voting “wasn’t taking place” and left the polling place, according to an affidavit written by Maribeth Witzel-Behl, the municipal clerk for the City of Madison.

Witzel-Behl recommended the Dane County Circuit Court extend the voting hours due to “incorrect information and direction disseminated to potential voters at the polling place by the building owner.”

District 8 Alder MGR Govindarajan told The Daily Cardinal the building’s manager told Union staff voting was not taking place. Govindarajan said voting resumed by 4:15 p.m.

The Republican Party of Wisconsin objected to the 90-minute extension, according to Govindarajan. A court filing shows attorney Kurt Goehre — who has represented Wisconsin Republicans in other election-related legal issues — argued against extending the voting hours.

“I think it is very clear that the Republican Party, in a way, tries to limit the voices of those who are not very prevalent,” Govindarajan said. “Students don’t have a very big voice, and it seems like the party is trying to suppress their voice even further."

Officials are in the process of identifying what happened, Kelly Tyrrell, UW-Madison director of media relations and strategic communications, told the Cardinal in an email Tuesday evening.

Tyrrell later told the Cardinal in a Thursday afternoon email that UW-Madison learned some Memorial Union student staff members at Memorial Union “incorrectly believed” starting around 2:30 p.m. that voting wasn’t taking place at the building. 

This was due to miscommunication and an error with a daily event calendar, according to Tyrrell. 

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“Staff temporarily removed or flipped voting signs and told a small number of student voters and an election observer that Memorial Union was not a polling place,” Tyrrell said. 

Tyrrell said UW-Madison is taking actions to make sure future on-campus polling places operate without disruption, including ensuring student and professional staff have access to voting information before election day and strengthening communication between the City Clerk’s office and campus polling locations.

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump clinched projected victories in Wisconsin’s Democratic and Republican presidential primaries, respectively, shortly after polls closed, according to the Associated Press.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 8:54 p.m. on April 2, 2024, to add a statement from UW-Madison. The article was additionally updated at 10:22 p.m. April 4, 2024 to add further comment from UW-Madison.

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Jasper Bernstein

Jasper Bernstein is the Associate News Editor for The Daily Cardinal. Follow him on Twitter at @jasperberns.

Noe Goldhaber

Noe Goldhaber is the college news editor and former copy chief for the Daily Cardinal. She is a statistics major and has reported on a wide range of campus issues. Follow her on Twitter at @noegoldhaber.

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