Wisconsin’s overnight election change driven by strong Democratic support in absentee ballots

Posted at 5:50 PM, Nov 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-04 18:50:35-05

MILWAUKEE — It was a drastic overnight change, with most people going to bed with President Donald Trump holding a strong lead in Wisconsin. However, just before sunrise, votes in Democratic strongholds came through and Joe Biden surged to a lead.

President Trump held a roughly 100,000 vote lead late Tuesday night. However, in Wisconsin’s largest county, election workers finished counting 169,519 absentee ballots between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. Absentee votes are believed to heavily support the Democrats and it proved true in Wisconsin, as Biden gained a lead in Wisconsin by roughly 20,000 votes, with NBC News projecting the Badger State for Biden.

The Wisconsin Election Commission was steadfast about the validity of the result. While they still declare the numbers being reported are unofficial, they believe in how the process unfolded making a fair election.

“There are trying circumstances this year,” Megan Wolfe, Administrator for the Wisconsin Election Commission said. “We ran an excellent election. Our local election officials followed every rule with precision and something we should all have great pride in.”

“I am very confident in our totals,” Julietta Henry, Director of Elections in Milwaukee County said. “When you add 169,519 votes to a number that’s already there, yes it may have changed the election results. But the election was not at 100 percent until every vote is counted.”

In Milwaukee County, as well as other large counties in the state, absentee ballots go to a central count location. It’s to help streamline things since there are a larger number of these ballots arriving. As a result, Milwaukee County does not release the results as they count them. Instead, they wait until 100 percent of the ballots are accounted for and they announce the results for the county in full.

President Trump’s team says they will ask for a recount, though it’s not clear whether the President is eligible to do so. There are still provisional ballots to count and results verified, which could take weeks. However, Wolfe believes the collection process across the state was done well.

"Elections are such a deliberate meticulous process where each local official is conducting the process in a public setting,” Wolfe said. “Every piece of data publicly available.”

Wolfe says, if there is a recount, she’s confident it will reveal the quality of the election process in the state.

“We’ve had a recount before and it showed, we have a really good process,” Wolfe said. “A really good system. Local election officials are doing a phenomenal job. I believe that would be the case if we had a recount again. It would find we had a really solid system here with an incredible paper trail for every single request, registration and ballot cast.”

Wolfe did make clear, the results being reported are unofficial, though they say media reports are generally very accurate. Because of this, the results are not certified until they finish canvasing across the state. Municipalities will begin canvassing to verify the validity of the results they’ve submitted. That process is expected to be completed by December 1.

There is also the issue of counting provisional ballots. Essentially, if someone showed up on Election Day without a valid photo ID, that person would be allowed to cast a ballot, but it wouldn’t be counted until they can provide a valid photo ID. That deadline is Friday.

For historical context, the Wisconsin Election Commission says, there have been fewer than 1,000 provisional ballots in general elections.

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