MILWAUKEE - There are a number of state statutes that require municipal clerks to mail absentee ballots within a certain number of days -- laws that were written before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid the pandemic, and with the Nov. 3 election now 46 days away, more than 1 million Wisconsin voters have already requested their ballots by mail.
Being a mathematician wasn't required for the job, but Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg said the state's math doesn't add up.
"Getting 96,000 ballots out within 24 hours is just impossible," said Woodall-Vogg.
Wisconsin state statute says that municipal clerks must send a ballot to any voter with an absentee application on file 47 days before the federal election.
Often, clerks don't receive the ballots until the day before they are required to go out.
"Getting them out within 36 hours, which is the time we had from the time we received ballots to the time of the mailing deadline, is just not possible," Woodall-Vogg said.
There is no penalty for clerks who miss the deadline. Still, Woodall-Vogg said the state statute needs to change: "I think our laws were written expecting us to receive 6,000-10,000 ballots -- not 100,000 ballots."
Requests for ballots by mail are way up not just in Milwaukee, but across the state.
"We went from a state that went from doing about 6% absentee by mail prior to April 2020 to 60% or more," said Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin Elections Commissioner administrator. "In August we saw 80%."
The Wisconsin Elections Commissioner is tracking voter trends, information that Wolfe will share with lawmakers responsible for writing election laws.
"I'm sure that's the type of feedback and data that we will be providing to those legislative decision-makers as we head into the next session," Wolfe said.
Woodall-Vogg, meanwhile, is counting -- outgoing ballots and days.
"We are working through the weekend to make sure all ballots are in the mail by Monday," said Woodall-Vogg.
Absentee ballots can be requested up to five days before the election. However, election officials ask that those interested do so as soon as possible to ensure that ballots are received and returned by election day.