Picking a party: Primary election rules

Voting stations at the De Pere Community Center are seen on April 1, 2014. (WLUK/Pauleen Le)

MANITOWOC - Wisconsin's partisan primaries are one week away.

Before voters make choices about individual candidates, they have to make a bigger decision: Which party's primary are they going to vote in?

"In Wisconsin, your party is a secret to you," said Jennifer Hudon, Manitowoc city clerk. "But when it comes to this partisan primary, you need to select a party and vote only within that party."

Hudon explained that primary elections aren't like general elections, when you can cross over and vote for candidates from more than one party.

One group of voters that will have to make this choice are people in Wisconsin's 6th Congressional District. They could vote in the four-way Republican primary for the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, or they could vote in some statewide races. In addition to the Democratic primary for governor, three Democrats are running for attorney general.

The city of Manitowoc falls into that area.

"We try to encourage people to select a party to begin with in case they do cross over so that some of their votes do count," said Hudon.

At the top of each ballot, voters can choose a party. This selection doesn't amount to any votes; however, it acts as a safety net. If you vote in another party's race, that vote won't count, but votes in your party's races still will count.

Hudon said voters also have the chance to correct mistakes.

"The machine would catch it, yes. They would have two more opportunities to fix their ballot and recast their ballot at the polling place," she said.

The crossover rules of a partisan primary may be of more concern to people who fill out their ballots at home and mail them in absentee. They wouldn't have the chance to correct mistakes.

Partisan primaries have been used in Wisconsin since 1905.

The director of Wisconsin's elections agency predicted voter turnout for the Aug. 12 primary will be 15 percent.

You can look up who is on your primary ballot through the My Vote Wisconsin website.