Concern grows over counting absentee ballots for April 7 election

MILWAUKEE -- The April 7 election is just one week away. To avoid possible exposure to COVID-19, a record number of Wisconsinites are voting absentee. So many have chosen this option, the City of Milwaukee believes it will take three days to count all of the absentee ballots. But the Wisconsin Elections Commission is more concerned about the ballots that will not be counted.

Because of the pandemic, Wisconsin officials pushed the deadline to request a ballot by mail to April 2. But it has not adjusted the ballot return date.

Under current state law, absentee ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. on April 7 -- election night. If the ballots are not returned on time, they will not be counted.

According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, close to 30,000 voters are waiting to receive their mail ballot. Another 604,000 already have one but have not sent it back.

During an emergency meeting of the commission on Tuesday morning, March 31, members were split. About half believe that with so many ballots still out, election integrity is at risk. The rest say voters are smart enough to meet the deadline.

"We have to have a realistic appraisal as to how many tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of votes are not going to be back in time to even be counted on the 7th. And how we, in good faith, can we say that it's going to be a fair and safe election under those circumstances?" said Mark Thomsen, WEC commissioner.

"I think we have to give the voter credit for being intelligent and understanding how to get their ballots in. From my experience, the voters everywhere, especially in the city of Milwaukee, are very intelligent and know how to do this stuff and get their ballots in so they will be counted," said Robert Spindell Jr., WEC commissioner.

To make sure your vote counts, the WEC suggests you request your mail ballot now. Return it in person or at a drop-off box no later than Election Day.

You can also vote in-person absentee at your clerk's office -- or at a drive-up site.

Lastly, you can also wait and vote at your polling site on April 7.