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Concerns over counting absentee ballots

Published: Sep. 17, 2020 at 8:18 PM CDT
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OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - Thursday was the deadline for the absentee ballots requested so far to be mailed by area clerks. It’s estimated one to two million people will vote for the November election.

Over the next few weeks, clerks are anticipating a major shift as the number of people voting absentee is expected to hit an all time high, during the November election. But instead of processing the ballots immediately as they come in, most of the work has to be done while the polls are open.

“It’s kind of time consuming. You know, the verification of the information on those envelopes, the opening them, getting them fed through the machine because you have one machine at the polling place the people in person voting are using as well as the one they’re trying to run the absentee ballots through," Winnebago County Clerk Sue Ertmer said.

Many municipalities are designating specific poll workers just to handle the absentee ballots.

It’s also an issue that came up on Wednesday during a meeting of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Commissioners acknowledged some votes postmarked prior to November 3 could arrive late -- a situation which happened in April.

“My concern is is whether the federal court is going to give us that extra week to let us count votes that may get tied up in the mail, so I think that is the concern," Commissioner Mark Thomsen said.

“Unless there would be some court order or something coming down saying we have to accept absentee ballots past November 3rd, I don’t know that will even happen," Ertmer said. “I think we will have all of our results processed and counted. It could be two in the morning, but it will get done before we leave for the night.”

One reason clerks tell me they might not get the extension to count absentee ballots like they did before is because this is a federal election and not a state one.

It’s unclear when this decision could be made.

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