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Voting machine closeup (copy)

A finished ballot for a fictional election was printed Friday in a test run in the city of Portage for Columbia County's new voting machines, which will debut in Tuesday's non-partisan primary election. 

The polls are open statewide from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday for Wisconsin’s spring nonpartisan primary.

The percentage of eligible voters who will actually cast ballots is something that officials of the Wisconsin Elections Commission are not forecasting. Historically, statewide turnout for the spring general election has been all over the road, according to statistics from the commission, with turnout for spring primaries often being much lower.

In recent years, the highest turnout for a spring general election was 34.31 percent in 2011, when Joanne Kloppenburg challenged incumbent Supreme Court Justice David Prosser. The lowest recent turnout for an April election was in 2001, at just under 14 percent, when the only statewide race was for state schools superintendent.

The commission, however, does not keep turnout statistics for spring nonpartisan primaries — though both statewide and in Columbia County, Tuesday’s election might spark more interest than usual. In addition to narrowing the candidate field for state Supreme Court Justice from three to two, Columbia County voters also will determine which two candidates, of four, advance to the spring election for Columbia County Circuit Court judge.

Here are some questions and answers about Tuesday’s vote.

Why is a primary election being held?

In Wisconsin, a primary election is triggered every time there are more than two candidates for a single post. The primary narrows the field to two candidates for the spring election, which will be held on April 3 this year.

Who are the candidates for Supreme Court justice?

The candidates, in alphabetical order, are:

  • Tim Burns, a Madison attorney who works for a law firm that specializes in suing insurance companies.
  • Rebecca Dallet, a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge.
  • Michael Screnock, a Sauk County Circuit Court judge.

The two candidates who finish at the top of Tuesday’s polls will advance to the spring election, when they will vie for a 10-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Who are the candidates for Columbia County Circuit Court judge?

With the retirement of Judge Alan White, the Branch 3 judge’s seat is available, and the following four people (in alphabetical order) want it:

  • Clifford Burdon, a former Columbia County assistant district attorney.
  • Troy Cross, a current Columbia County assistant district attorney.
  • Steve Sarbacker, an attorney who’s in private practice in Portage, and who formerly was a Columbia County assistant district attorney.
  • Brenda Yaskal, a former Columbia County assistant district attorney, and now an assistant corporation counsel in Sauk County.

As with the Supreme Court justice election, the top two vote-getters will be on the ballot in April.

Are there any other elections on my ballot?

In most of Columbia County, there are no local primary elections on Tuesday’s ballot.

Residents of the city of Wisconsin Dells, however, will narrow the field of three mayoral candidates — Louis Kutzke, Caesar Scott Smolinski and Ed Wojnicz — to two.

And, in the city of Columbus, the field needs to be narrowed for the Common Council District 3 race, whose candidates are Ben Davis, Paula M. Steiner and incumbent Andrew Traxler.

Since this is a primary election, should I vote for the two candidates that I think should be on the general election ballot?

No. You may only vote for one candidate.

How do I find out where I vote?

If you have internet access, My Vote Wisconsin ( has a wealth of information, including the location of your polling place. Click on the “Find My Polling Place” (second from the left on the top menu bar) and type in your address. You can also get a sample ballot that way.

The Columbia County Clerk’s Office also has a list of all the county’s polling places, at

If you don’t have onternet access, you may call the clerk’s office at 608-742-9654 or visit in person from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays to verify the location of your polling place.

One word of caution: Your polling place may not be in the city or village that you use as your mailing address. For example, people with an address of Rio who don’t live within the village limits may have their polling place in the towns of Otsego, Wyocena or Lowville. If you live in the country and don’t know what town you live in, in all likelihood you have a “fire number” in front of your house that lists the town.

Do I have to show ID to vote?

Yes. Acceptable forms of identification at Wisconsin polling places include a valid Wisconsin driver’s license (even if under suspension or revocation), an ID issued by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, a military ID, a U.S. passport or a photo ID from an accredited Wisconsin college or university, if the college ID includes a date of issuance, the student’s signature and an expiration date no later than two years after the date of issuance. Voters who bring college or university IDs must also bring a separate document that proves enrollment.

Does my ID have to have my current address?

No. The purpose of your ID is to prove your identity, not your residence. You prove your residence when you register to vote, which you can do at the polls and vote the same day, if you bring proof — like an unexpired Wisconsin driver’s license or another official state-issued ID that lists your address, a utility bill or a bank statement — to prove that you indeed live at the residence for which you are seeking voter registration. (If you live in two or more places, you can only be registered to vote in one of them.)

May I still vote if I forget to bring my ID to the polls?

Yes. But your ballot will be a provisional ballot, and will be tabulated only when you bring ID, either to the polling place by 8 p.m. the day of the election or to your municipal clerk by 4 p.m. the Friday after the election. Provisional ballots will not be issued if you went to the wrong polling place, or if you are not registered to vote and didn’t bring acceptable proof of residence.

Follow Lyn Jerde on Twitter @LynJerde

Portage Daily Register Reporter