WI clerks to mail more than a million absentee ballots this week

“It remains to be seen whether Wisconsin can still count all of the ballots on election night,” said the director of the Marquette Law School Poll.
Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 9:44 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Wisconsin Elections Commission reported a historic number of absentee ballot requests as clerks prepare to send the first wave of ballots this week.

Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin’s chief election official, said as of Tuesday morning, more than a million voters have already requested absentee ballots for the November 3 election. No other election, she explained, had as many requests at this point.

Clerks must meet a Thursday deadline for mailing absentee ballots to registered voters with requests on file and a Saturday deadline for sending them to overseas and military voters.

Charles Franklin, the director of the Marquette Law School Poll, explained that Wisconsin will be a battleground state this election alongside Michigan and Pennsylvania (They gave President Donald Trump the electoral college majority in 2016).

“Certainly switching to the volume of absentee by mail is going to be a challenge, but especially in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania,” Franklin said.

He continued, that the number of returned absentee ballots may be different than what was sent. “No matter what,” he said, "you’d expect the election night count to be slower than it usually is. But it remains to be seen whether Wisconsin can still count all of the ballots on election night, even if that means in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.”

In Wisconsin, absentee ballots are counted at voters' respective polling places. Franklin said this may speed up the counting process.

As far as potential delays with the postal service, Wolfe said the commission meets weekly with its state and regional representatives. “We have no reason to believe that [delays] to be the case in Wisconsin, with the regional facilities that sort our mail,” she said. “But we do know that mail can take up to a week on each leg of the journey and sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes things go wrong on the voters' side. Sometimes things go wrong in the mailing system.”

Per state statute, the elections commission cannot allow clerks to process absentee ballots before election day. However, clerks can check that a voter has included his or her signature, as well as that of the witness. If they find any “deficiencies,” Wolfe said clerks can contact voters to fix their mistakes.

For this reason, Wolfe stressed that voters should not only request but also return completed absentee ballots as soon as possible.

Voters have until the Thursday before election to make an absentee ballot request.

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