So you did your civic duty and you didn’t procrastinate: you voted early. Then the candidate who earned your vote dropped out of the race. What to do?
Early voting for the August 9th primary election began on Tuesday. And as of this morning, nearly 12,000 absentee ballots in Madison – about 7% of the city’s registered voters – have been returned. And statewide, nearly 140,000 votes had been returned as of yesterday, reports the Capital Times.
But some of those votes are for candidates who have since dropped out of the race. Republican candidate for Governor Kevin Nicholson suspended his campaign earlier this month. And this week, two candidates in the Democratic primary for US Senate canceled their campaigns to throw support behind Mandela Barnes.
So what to do if you’ve already submitted your ballot for a candidate who is no longer running?
Elections officials say you can change your vote.
Rachel Rodriguez is an Elections Specialist at the Dane County Clerk’s Office. She says you can cancel and recast your vote through a process called “spoiling.”
“Spoiling your ballot basically means that if you have made a mistake on your ballot or, in this case, maybe you have voted for somebody who’s already dropped out and you want to vote for somebody else, spoiling your ballot is the process that would allow you or would allow clerks to disregard a ballot that you may have already returned and then receive a new ballot,” says Rodriguez.
You do have to make a request to spoil your ballot yourself. And, you can only do so after your original ballot arrives at your clerk’s office.
“If you were – say for example you voted by mail and you want to have a new ballot mailed to you, then I would suggest that you contact your clerk and have that clerk spoil and cancel that previous ballot that you had sent in and they can send you a new one. If you had decided that maybe you mailed a ballot in originally but now you want to vote in person absentee, you could request that that ballot be spoiled when you go to vote early. If you have returned a ballot already you could call your clerk and say, ‘hey I’d like to spoil my ballot,’ and then you could still go in person and vote on election day if you wanted to do that.”
There are multiple deadlines for spoiling a ballot. The deadline depends on whether you voted early by mail or in person. Voters who are indefinitely confined – because of age, illness, or disability – and voted early by mail have an extra day.
“If you are not an indefinitely confined absentee voter, if you requested a ballot via mail and you’re not indefinitely confined, then the deadline is 5pm the Thursday [August 4th] before the election. If you are indefinitely confined it’s 5pm the Friday [August 5th] before the election.”
If you cast a ballot in-person absentee and you still want to spoil that ballot, then the deadline becomes the end of whenever your municipal clerk is doing in-person absentee voting.”
Because of this, Rodriguez encourages voters who want to spoil their ballot to do it sooner rather than later. If you have questions, contact your municipal clerk.
Voters can spoil their ballot twice, at most. A spoiled ballot is marked and set aside by clerks to make sure it isn’t counted on election day. The clerk’s office is recommending all requests to spoil a ballot be made in writing, for sake of keeping a record in case of, for example, an audit.
Editor’s note: The morning following this story, Sarah Godlewski, another top contender for the US Senate race, also announced she was suspending her campaign.