Jeramey Jannene

Some 6,000 City Ballots Lost in Mail

Ballots from Fox Point, Appleton, Oshkosh also lost. All went to downtown Milwaukee postal office.

By - Apr 13th, 2020 04:00 pm
Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Neil Albrecht looks through absentee ballots. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Neil Albrecht looks through absentee ballots. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Officials across Wisconsin have reported absentee ballots mailed between March 20th and March 24th never made it voters, but the scale of the problem has never had figures behind it. New data from Milwaukee shows the size of the problem and a lawsuit has been filed requesting those affected be given the opportunity to vote.

A Milwaukee Election Commission report states that almost 6,000 ballots mailed March 22nd and March 23rd were never returned. The city mailed 7,814 ballots over those two days and less than 25 percent have come back. Throughout the election the city issued 96,712 ballots, of which 70,729 (73 percent) have been returned. Based on past data, the commission expected the return rate to be closer to 90 percent.

Commission executive director Neil Albrecht requested a formal United States Postal Service investigation into the problem last week. The city, and other municipalities across the state, have records of mailing the ballots.

“I don’t know where the investigation will go, but I think one is owed to the public,” said Albrecht in providing a status update to the three commissioners during a meeting Monday morning.

Over 1,000 voters contacted the city because their ballot hadn’t arrived. “We were almost immediately able to identify a pattern that their ballots were mailed around March 22nd or 23rd,” said Albrecht. The city reissued over 1,000 ballots by Friday, April 3rd, but many of them were sent too late to be mailed back once the US Supreme Court revised a lower court ruling on April 6th and required a Tuesday, April 7th postmark.

Those that didn’t receive a ballot by election day on April 7th were allowed to cast a vote in person. A class-action lawsuit filed Monday aims to allow those that didn’t vote in person to be allowed to vote. The suit has 14 plaintiffs from Milwaukee.

Albrecht believed last week that the majority of the ballots were mailed on the 22nd and 23rd, but now that the response window has passed, it’s clear that wasn’t the case.

Ballots have turned up in other locations, too late for voters to act upon them. The Village of Fox Point in Milwaukee County received 175 ballots back from the United States Postal Service without explanation on Election Day, too late for voters to do anything but vote in person. Three more crates were found Wednesday by a postal worker, filled with ballots for Appleton and Oshkosh voters, according to State Senator Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac).

But there isn’t much information on the matter. “I’m not going to bury the lede,” said Wisconsin Elections Commission Executive Director Meagan Wolfe during a Friday afternoon meeting. “We are having a really hard time getting any answers from the postal service itself.”

It’s not entire bundles that have gone missing. WEC staff has been able to confirm cases of ballots printed on the same day, with labels from the same sheet, addressed to the same house that didn’t all arrive.

The issue appears to primarily affect ballots mailed between March 20th and 24th, said Wolfe. And all the ballots impacted were supposed to be processed by USPS’ Milwaukee sorting facility at 435 W. St. Paul Ave., which handles most of the mail in the state.

“Our ballot designs have all been approved by USPS,” said Wolfe. “We have no indication that there was some sort of systemic issue with the design or the envelope.”

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Categories: Politics

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