Witzel-Behl (left) says poll workers will save up to 45 minutes with the change. McDonell estimates nearly all write-ins were for cartoon characters.
For poll worker Larry Nelson, Election Day's most irritating hour -- or hours -- arrives after the polls close, when the write-in votes are counted.
"Here you are, on your feet after working 14 hours, and now you have to sort through the ballots looking for Mickey Mouse," he explains. "It's quite a bit of work for something that doesn't mean a whole lot. Hopefully we can get the law changed before the next election."
Consider it done. On April 2, the day after this year's spring election, Gov. Scott Walker quietly signed a bill lifting the requirement that all write-in votes must be counted.
Under the new law, only votes for registered write-in candidates, and write-in votes in races absent a certified candidate on the ballot, will be counted.
To be considered a registered write-in candidate, a special form must be submitted with the appropriate clerk's office prior to the election.
City of Madison Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl estimates the change will shave 30 to 45 minutes from poll workers' workday, although it ultimately depends on the number of uncontested races on the ballot.
Of the 44 races throughout Dane County on April 1, 567 write-in votes were cast, according to official tabulations. With the exception of school board races, which are locally run, Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell estimates nearly 100% of write-in votes were cast for various cartoon characters, celebrities and even voters themselves.
"There are some races where you think Brett Favre might actually get elected, even though everyone knows he lives in Mississippi," he says. "Aaron Rodgers kind of makes sense because he lives in Wisconsin, but quite a few people still vote for Favre, even though he played for the Vikings."
The push to change the law began about two years ago, says Sun Prairie Clerk Diane Hermann-Brown, who chairs the Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association's legislative committee.
"We still have to account for the [registered] write-ins, but we won't have to sit there and count out how many votes these fictional characters received," she says.
Of all potential write-in candidates, McDonell and Hermann-Brown say Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are among the most popular.
"What I find strange is that Donald Duck always beats Mickey Mouse, at least in Sun Prairie," Hermann-Brown says.