RACINE, Wis. — Racine City Clerk Tara McMenamin has been busy this early voting season, ahead of Tuesday’s primary election in Wisconsin.
"We’ve been doing a lot of the mobile election unit, also in-person absentee voting, as well as getting together all of our logistical things for election day— tabulators, badger books, as well as scheduling election officials," McMenamin said.
It’s the mobile election unit that is making headlines this week after Rep. Timothy Ramthun, a Republican candidate for governor, claimed the city was collecting ballots from people, and that it was illegal.
McMenamin said that isn’t the case.
“This is not a mobile dropbox at all," McMenamin said. "It is only used during the scheduled dates, times, and locations that are in our type e-notice, and that was put out a couple of weeks ago. It only is open during those dates and times. It is not a drop box; it does not have any slots on the outside to be able to put in ballots, and you can only deliver a ballot if you are the voter during a manned date and time hour.”
She said a voter in the city can come to the van to cast their ballots ahead of Tuesday’s primary.
There are five, private voting booths inside for voters to fill out their ballots and a lockbox at the back of the van to cast their votes.
There are also two locations where observers are allowed inside, marked with blue tape.
"We’ve actually had quite a few from both parties," McMenamin said. "We’ve actually had observers. We have one space up in the front as people are registering and requesting their ballot, as well as one you’re currently standing in which is for observers to come and see when the ballots are cast. Observers have been here; they’ve been watching, and we’re happy to have them.”
McMenamin said the city wanted to expand it’s early in-person absentee voting opportunities for several years. To do it without the truck, she said the city would have needed nearly 100 laptops and other hardware that would have cost the city money.
This truck was funded by a grant from the nonprofit Centers for Tech and Civic Life, which is funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg.
“It pretty much gives us the flexibility instead of setting up inside of a brick and mortar — bringing in tables, bringing in poll booths, bringing in laptops — we have the capability now to visit more locations in the city by being able to roam," McMenamin said.
Racine’s mayor, Corey Mason, said it’s like a book mobile, expanding voting access to more people.
“I think it’s a good expansion of our democracy," Mason said. "It’s something I’m glad the city is doing."
Spectrum News asked the Racine County Republican Party, the Wisconsin GOP, Ramthun’s campaign and Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos for comment, but did not hear back before publishing time.
To see a list of dates and times for the mobile election unit, click here.