“There may be laws I am opposed to in this job,” says Fond du Lac County Clerk Lisa Freiberg, “but I have taken an oath to uphold the law and constitution.” It should go without saying that an elected official would uphold and enforce the law as prescribed. However, in the wake of a County Clerk in Kentucky being jailed for refusing to issue valid marriage licenses, many have strong opinions over what the role of a Clerk is and what they are elected to do. For Freiberg, this case is an outlier and not representative of her role in Fond du Lac County, stating: “I would never refuse to do the aspects of my job that I am elected to do.”
In the State of Wisconsin, County Clerks are elected every four years in each of the 72 counties. They are charged with many duties, including issuing marriage licenses and acting as clerk to the County Board of Supervisors. Additionally, they are each county’s chief election officer, which requires a Clerk to prepare and distribute ballots and count the results for each of the municipalities it oversees.
Before being elected as County Clerk, Freiberg started part time in the office in 1998, when she was hired by former Clerk Joyce Buechel. Over the course of her tenure, she worked many aspects of the office and served as the backup to Buechel during elections. When Buechel decided to retire in 2008, she approached Freiberg to consider running in the upcoming election. While initially hesitant, it was when Freiberg recognized she would be the one training a new Clerk on election procedures that she realized she could do the job.
Nearly two full terms into the role, Freiberg feels she has excelled in the position, with elections still being her favorite part. Overseeing all aspects of elections in the County can be quite challenging, and yet Freiberg loves the challenges. From coordinating with 33 municipalities and 11 school districts, there can be numerous variations to the election ballot and even crises that she must tackle on Election Day. “I love elections. I love to talk to groups about elections and explaining them. I push myself. I like the challenge,” Freiberg articulates.
Before the first election occurs in 2016, County Clerk Freiberg has been hard at work implementing new certified voting machines for all polling places in Fond du Lac County. The old voting machines were purchased in 1998 and most run on DOS, an outdated disk operating system. Programming on the new voting machines is Windows-based and allows for future upgrades as they become available. With the presence of the new voting machines, voters may notice one small change at the ballot box. “The voter will fill in an oval, just like we did on my high school exams, instead of completing the arrow,” explains Freiberg. The new voting machines will also save taxpayer money as it allows the Clerk’s office to program the machines in-house instead of outsourcing that work to another company.
The biggest change you will see in the next election isn’t related to voting machines, but to Photo IDs. Before you can fill in the oval on your ballot, voters will have to present a valid government-issued photo ID. Poll workers will be trained by County Clerk Freiberg to check the ID to see if the name matches the poll book and if the photo generally matches the voter in front of them. Voters who do not have a valid ID may obtain one for voting purposes from the Department of Motor Vehicles for free. The County Clerk’s office will soon be publicizing information related to obtaining a photo ID prior to the next election. “This new law will be for everyone,” Freiberg reminds, “It may feel weird to have to show your ID to the poll worker who may have been your neighbor for 50 years, but you’ll need to in order to vote.”
Freiberg expects 2016 to be a busy and productive year. Voters will elect the next President of the United States and make many decisions at the local and state levels. She will guide the Fond du Lac County Board of Supervisors to going paperless. And through it all, Freiberg thrives in the ever-changing realm of public service. “I have the willingness to work hard, I bring experience and knowledge to the office, and am a public servant. Even though there may be challenges, in the end, I always feel like I am doing the job I was elected to do.”
Lisa Freiberg is currently serving the remainder of her second four year term through December 2016.