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Milwaukee Election Commission responds to absentee ballot criticism

Posted: 5:55 PM, Nov 07, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-07 23:55:30Z

City of Milwaukee Election Commission faced criticism Tuesday night into Wednesday for their handling of thousands of damaged absentee ballots. 

Gov. Scott Walker and State Attorney General Brad Schimel expressed concerns over the validity of more than 2,000 ballots that had to be reconstructed. 

Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Neil Albrecht said there shouldn’t be any concerns about the recreated ballots. 

The whole state waited on more than 47,000 City of Milwaukee absentee ballots Tuesday night that were counted past midnight to decide who would be our next governor and attorney general. Roughly 2,000 of those ballots were damaged and reconstructed. Both Walker and Schimel’s advisors initially called foul saying they want to see the ballots for themselves. 

“There’s an unfortunate allegation in there that can lead to some mistrust of the election process,” Albrecht said. 

Albrecht expressed frustration over the matter Wednesday afternoon during a news conference. 

“We had observers from both political parties there through the entire day yesterday,” he said. 

Albrecht said absentee ballots have to be recreated in every election for a number of reasons, ranging from damaged mail-in ballots, to early voters who use pencils which can’t be read by ballot tabulators. 

“What happens though is the ballots don’t get opened,” said Election Law expert Mike Maistelman. “They get put somewhere in a secure area and they get delivered to the polling booth on election day.”

Maistelman said he wasn’t surprised by Walker and Schimel asking for the reconstructed ballots to be validated. Ultimately both realized they lost by more than 2,000 votes and didn’t have much of a case. 

Albrecht said the late results we saw Tuesday night could be avoided if lawmakers changed state law to allow municipalities to count absentee ballots as they come in. Currently, they have to wait until the polls open on election day.