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City clerk wards off election trouble

Greenfield will have redistricting snafu fixed in time for primary

Jan. 31, 2012

Greenfield - After working weekends all through January, the Greenfield clerk's office will be able to fix a redistricting snafu that could have turned the Feb. 21 primary election into a nightmare for voters and for poll workers.

Only a week ago, City Clerk Jennifer Goergen had told the Common Council that she wasn't sure she would be able to fix the problem in time, but as of Tuesday afternoon, the task is almost complete.

The problem is that the boundaries state legislators drew in redistricting following the 2010 U.S. Census don't match up in some places with local maps. As a result, some voters are not in the right wards or districts.

Fixing a state problem

To fix that, the clerk's office must move 5,000 voters one by one into the proper wards, Goergen said.

She emphasized that the problem is not a local mistake. It came about because state legislators relied on census blocks to draw their maps. Those blocks have been found to be inaccurate all over the state.

So, some of those living near Greenfield's new ward or district boundaries and even those near the city limits or on the edges of the Greenfield and Whitnall school districts were listed in the wrong voting wards in the state computer.

If things had not been put right, voters would have come to the polls for the Feb. 21 primary election and not be listed in the right poll book, Goergen said. They could have re-registered at the polls, though, she added.

The only local primary contest is a seven-way race for the Greenfield School Board.

"We're very happy," Goergen said Tuesday.

Timely technical help

Goergen and clerk's office employee Sherry Hartman have been coming in on weekends all month to move the 5,000 people to where they are supposed to be.

What finally turned the tide in favor of a timely completion were the two GIS technicians borrowed from the engineering department, she said.

"They work with this data every day and they are fast and efficient," Goergen said, and they too were whacking away at the task last Saturday.

Hartman who slugged through weekends with Goergen all month said stoically, "Sometimes you have to put in the extra hours to make sure things are done by the deadline."

But she admits to not being confident the huge task could be done on time.

"When I first saw how many things had to be checked, I was wondering," Hartman said.

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