Wisconsin Elections News: WEC Releases Analysis of Absentee Voting in April 7 Spring Election
MADISON, WI – Wisconsin election officials are busy preparing for fall elections based on the experience of serving a record number of absentee voters in Wisconsin’s April 7 Spring Election and Presidential Preference Primary, according to a new report from the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
The report documents the significant logistical and technical challenges local and state election officials faced in fulfilling the surge in absentee ballot requests and it recommends several ways to improve the absentee process for voters and clerks.
Of the 1.55 million ballots cast in the election, 61.8% were absentee ballots cast by mail and 12.6% were absentee “early” votes cast in the clerk’s office or at a vote center before Election Day.
|April 7, 2020 – Absentee Ballots||Absentee Ballot Count||% of Ballots|
|Total Absentee Ballots Sent||1,303,985||100.00%|
|Absentee Ballots Returned and Counted||1,159,800||88.9%|
|Absentee Ballots Returned and Rejected – After 4/13||2,659||0.20%|
|Absentee Ballots Returned and Rejected – Other||20,537||1.57%|
|Absentee Ballots Not Returned||120,989||9.27%|
The numbers and recommendations are contained in a report from the Commission to the Governor, Legislature and the voters of Wisconsin that will be discussed at a special Commission meeting Wednesday at 4 p.m. A copy of the report is available at the link.
“Because there have been so many questions about the April 7 election and absentee ballots, the Commission thought it was important to provide detailed data and analysis of what happened, why it happened, and what we are learning from that experience as we prepare for the fall elections,” said Meagan Wolfe, administrator of the WEC.
“We are already working on improvements including the use of USPS Intelligent Barcodes to help voters and clerks track ballots,” Wolfe said. “We are also making it easier for clerks to process the higher volumes of absentee ballot requests we anticipate in future elections.”
Also Wednesday, the Commission will discuss staff recommendations for spending $7.3 million in federal CARES Act pandemic grant funds to support voters and local election officials for the remaining elections in 2020.
Report Summary Findings
Absentee voting in the April 2020 election reached unprecedented levels, but Wisconsin voters, local election officials and election administration systems largely adapted under difficult circumstances, according to the report. At a local level, the extraordinary volume placed enormous stress on election officials, elections systems, and the postal service. While the vast majority of voters were able to receive and return their absentee ballots in time to be counted, some voters who requested ballots in good faith did not receive them due to no fault of their own.
While these manual processes have worked well in the past, it was not easy to scale them up without advance warning or extensive preparation. With mail volume up to 10 times higher than anticipated, clerks had to complete the same tasks without the benefit of having more staff, additional supplies or more hours to meet statutory deadlines.
Despite these challenges, clerks across the state did what was necessary to complete the task. Many jurisdictions hired and trained temporary staff, developed new procedures, and worked long nights and weekends to meet voter needs. The Wisconsin Elections Commission likewise hired temporary staff, rapidly expanded technical systems, and worked around the clock to keep up with demand. The data in this report affirms that these efforts were successful, while still revealing opportunities for improvement and important lessons learned.
WEC staff, Wisconsin clerks, and the USPS are working together to make improvements to the absentee voting process and prepare for continued high vote-by-mail volume for the remainder of 2020 and beyond. Process improvements in development revise the application, ballot mailing, ballot tracking, and quality control processes. Every step in the process, from the application form, to the envelope, to the tracking tools, is under examination and being evaluated for potential improvements. The tools now in development will provide voters, clerks, and WEC staff with a simpler process and improved communication.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report highlights public health measures taken by the Milwaukee Health and Fire Departments, Department of Administration, Election Commission, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services - City of Milwaukee Health Department - Aug 4th, 2020
- CDC Says Election Did Not Cause COVID-19 Spike - Erik Gunn - Aug 4th, 2020
- Pandemic Reduced Black Vote, Study Finds - Dee J. Hall - Jun 25th, 2020
- Did April Election Hike COVID-19 Cases? - Alana Watson - May 20th, 2020
- Elections Commission Notes ‘Lessons Learned’ - Henry Redman - May 19th, 2020
- Wisconsin Elections News: WEC Releases Analysis of Absentee Voting in April 7 Spring Election - Wisconsin Elections Commission - May 18th, 2020
- Election’s Impact on County’s COVID-19 Cases Unclear - Jeramey Jannene - May 6th, 2020
- Why State’s Voting By Mail Was Chaotic - Daniel C. Vock - May 4th, 2020
- At Least 40 COVID-19 Cases Tied to Election in Milwaukee - Graham Kilmer - Apr 24th, 2020
- Data Wonk: Did Republicans Doom Dan Kelly? - Bruce Thompson - Apr 22nd, 2020
Read more about 2020 Spring Primary here