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Ballot Rejections Prompt Outreach from Wisconsin Election Officials

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Wisconsin elections officials say the 23,000 absentee ballots rejected in April represented a normal amount, but because there was a jump in first-time absentee voters, it became more magnified. (Adobe Stock).
Wisconsin elections officials say the 23,000 absentee ballots rejected in April represented a normal amount, but because there was a jump in first-time absentee voters, it became more magnified. (Adobe Stock).
July 27, 2020

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin election officials expect a lot of people to vote absentee this November.

But after many mail-in ballots were rejected during the primary, the state isn't taking any chances with the outcome of the presidential race possibly hanging in the balance.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission says 23,000 absentee ballots were rejected during the April primary for several reasons, including instances where voters or their witness forgot to sign.

Commission spokesman Reid Magney says with the primary held during the early stages of the pandemic, and court fights over having in-person voting, many Wisconsin residents quickly turned to absentee voting for the first time.

"Typically, only about 6% of voters have voted absentee by mail in past elections," he points out. "And in April, that jumped to 60%."

Magney says because of the rushed nature surrounding the primary, the office didn't have time to reach out to all these voters to help them correct mistakes.

In 2016, Donald Trump won Wisconsin by roughly the same amount of votes. And with absentee expected to be popular again this fall, the office will mail out information on using this option, and is creating educational videos.

Magney says with less public confusion surrounding the November election, as opposed to the primary, the commission hopes more people will be able to mail in their absentee ballot well ahead of the deadline.

"If the ballot arrives at the polling place on election day, and there's a problem with it, and that ballot isn't counted, there really isn't a process set up in Wisconsin law to tell somebody, 'Hey, your ballot wasn't counted for these reasons,'" he states.

Magney says there aren't enough clerks and volunteers to address a flood of last minute ballots that contain mistakes.

Absentee voters concerned about whether their participation was recorded can go to the My Vote Wisconsin website.

Support for this reporting is provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - WI