2020 Election Day Roundup by the Marathon County Clerk

Written by Kim Trueblood

Most people hear about an Election Day in the few days or weeks — or, in the case of our most recent election, months and years — leading up to it.

Voters then:

  • go to the polls,
  • show their ID,
  • sign the poll book,
  • vote,
  • insert their ballot into the counting machine, and
  • head home.

Pretty routine stuff. But…

Have you ever wondered how a local election gets put together in the first place?

Or, what goes on “behind the scenes” in Marathon County to make sure everything is correct and runs smoothly?

This article will attempt to address these questions.

But first, the question most asked of me, as the Marathon County Clerk, after this latest election was:

“How did the numbers compare in the 2020 election to the 2016 election?”

To address that query, I’ve compiled some fascinating local statistics as they relate to our 2020 General Election.

Kudos to Marathon County for reaching 91.27% voter turnout!


Election Day Registration totals aren’t in yet — we’re still working on getting those entered. But just as a snapshot:

  • City of Wausau had 22,252 registered voters on November 2, 2020. As of the time of this article’s publication, they stand at 23,049.
  • Village of Weston has an electronic system that updates their Election Day registrations right away. On November 2, 2020, they had 9,320 registered voters, and they’re at 9,659 at the time of this article’s publication.

Planning a Local Election

Every election in the State of Wisconsin starts several months ahead of time…

There are statutory notices that have to be filed to notify the public that there will be an upcoming election. In fact, as Marathon County Clerk, I just sent an email to all the County newspapers with the notice for the Spring 2021 election that will take place in April (see below).


Once the deadline (January 5, 2021) for filing nomination papers for the Spring election has passed, municipal clerks will notify me of who their candidates will be. The Spring 2021 election will have town and village president and board races, as well as school board races. If there are enough candidates who have filed for a particular office to force a primary, our office will have to move quickly to meet all the deadlines for getting ballots to the clerks.

Once the ballots are programmed and printed, the municipal clerks will all come to the courthouse to pick up the ballots and start sending them off to those who have requested an absentee ballot.

A sampling of absentee envelopes returned by municipal clerks in Marathon County. (Photo courtesy of Marathon County Clerk’s Office.)

Our office will work with the municipal clerk in the time period leading up to the election to make sure all the necessary processes are completed in a timely fashion and help answer any questions they may have. Every clerk will also conduct public testing of their election equipment to make sure it’s functioning properly before Election Day arrives.

Election Day Procedures

County Clerk staff members arrive at the office by 6:30 a.m. on Election Day so that we can begin answering the many phone calls that start right away at 7:00 a.m. We get loads of questions, ranging from how to change the time on tabulator machines (a really easy fix) to more panicked calls stating that the tabulator machine has completely frozen up and won’t accept any ballots (not as easy, but also completely fixable).

At 8:00 p.m., poll workers will close the lines at the polling sites and allow everyone who is already in line to vote. They will then start their processes of counting the ballots to make sure the totals match up with how many people signed the poll book (and, if there’s a discrepancy, they have to figure out why). They then print off the results from the counting machines and send those figures to our office, where we put them into report form to be uploaded to the Marathon County Clerk Elections webpage for all the world to see.

Employee Resources Analyst Sharon Hernandez (left) and City-County I.T. Commission liaison Jean Kopplin (right) watching for results to be reported. Jean makes sure that the technology functions smoothly, and if there are any issues, she is on-site to resolve them right away. (Photo courtesy of Marathon County Clerk’s Office.)

After clerks report their results, they will sometimes drive to the Marathon County Courthouse to bring us back all of their equipment and supplies. (If they don’t come on Election Night, they have to come the next day.)

Once all 61 municipalities have reported their election results, and we’ve checked in all the clerks who chose to return their election materials to us that night, we can head home, which for the election earlier this November happened at 11 p.m. — much earlier than we had expected to be done!

Marathon County Administrative Specialist Anne Pecha (seated in blue mask) and Branch 4 Judicial Assistant Sheila McCarthy (standing to Anne’s right) help clerks (Town of Day Clerk Dave Kraus [seated in red] and Town of Johnson Clerk Marilyn Bhend [to Dave’s right]) check in with their supplies on election night. (Photo courtesy of Marathon County Clerk’s Office.)

After the Election

The County Clerk’s Office still has lots of work to do after the election is over…

Canvass all the results. Enter all the Election Day registrations into the statewide voter system (some clerks do this themselves), and again make sure that all the numbers reconcile and make sense.

Scanning in poll book pages to record voter participation. This is how voters see that their vote was counted when they look at https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/. (Photo courtesy of Marathon County Clerk’s Office.)

We have 45 days after the election to get this all wrapped up and submitted to the State — all while we’re working on getting the next election put together!

Some of the election paperwork returned by municipal clerks that is waiting to be processed and recorded. (Photo courtesy of Marathon County Clerk’s Office.)

We’ll get a bit of a breather in 2021, as there are only 2 scheduled elections (a February primary, if needed, and an April election), compared to the 5 we had this year.

The County Clerk’s Office is definitely looking forward to the break!


Kim Trueblood

Marathon County Clerk

Kim has served as Marathon County Clerk since September 2019. She has worked with elections for the Clerk’s office since 2011 and joined the staff full-time in 2018. Prior to that, she was a substitute teacher for the Wausau and DC Everest School Districts. Kim and her husband are parents to three young adults and all of their activities keep life very full. In her spare time, Kim loves to read and travel to visit family. Email Kim Trueblood.

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