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State election officials to investigate uncounted absentee ballots from recent election

Posted at 10:25 PM, Apr 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-18 23:25:05-04

The Wisconsin Elections Commission voted to open an investigation into thousands of absentee ballots that were never returned or counted in the recent April 7th election. 

Commission members held a special meeting on Saturday to debrief after the recent election and to discuss how to improve the absentee voting process in the future.

According to the latest data, 135,417 absentee ballots were never returned. At least 1.1 million absentee ballots were returned and counted, which commission administrators believe account for nearly 80% of the state's local election participation, according to Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe.

Wolfe said in a typical election, about 10 percent of the votes are absentee, and of those there's at least an 80 percent return rate. Commission data shows the absentee return rate for the April 7 election was 87.5 percent.

Still, thousands of people turned out at the polls on April 7. In Milwaukee, lines stretched around the block as voters waited for hours to cast their ballots.

Commissioner Robert Spindell called for an investigation in Milwaukee, but the motion did not pass in a 3-3 vote.

"Maybe they decided to stick with the five to make everything look absolutely possibly terrible," Spindell said.

"I do not think that anyone involved in this election was putting people intentionally at risk for political points," said Commissioner Ann Jacobs.

The Commission went on to discuss how to improve the absentee ballot system for future elections. It voted to allow the Commission staff to get to work on its recommendation of putting barcodes on absentee ballots. According to the Commission's summary report, that way voters could track their ballot "like they would any other important package," through the MyVote website.

"We wouldn't have these complaints of somebody saying my vote is, where is it," said Commissioner Mark Thomsen. "We would know, whether it's sitting in a bin in Milwaukee, something, a voter can track it."