Milwaukee absentee ballot error, early voting begins

Early voting opened Tuesday, March 22 for Wisconsin’s April election. Voters will decide on contentious school board races, judges and county leadership. In Milwaukee, the ballot features the first open mayor’s race in 18 years. 

On the first day of early voting, FOX6 News learned some absentee ballots were sent without needed initials.

The clerk or election director's initials go on absentee ballots, and some Milwaukee voters got theirs in the mail without the initials. 

"Your ballot must be initialed," said Jeanne Raemisch-Cera Milwaukee voter as she showed FOX6 News her ballot.

Raemisch-Cera was worried about what the city sent her.

"Your ballot may not be counted without initials, said Raemisch-Cera, reading from the ballot itself.

"So on the back, there was nothing," she said while showing her ballot.

There were no initials of the city's election director, and she said a few elderly neighbors had the same absentee ballot problem.

"There’s all this talk about fraud, and voter fraud and the big deals they’ve made about absentee ballots and ballot boxes, and now, we’re getting a ballot without the signature on it and they’re saying that’s OK," said Raemisch-Cera.

Milwaukee's election director said this looks like problem in one ward, impacting about 90 voters.

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"Whenever we’re mailing out 25,000 ballots within about 24 hours, there is that risk of human error," said Claire Woodall-Vogg, executive director, Milwaukee Election Commission.

Voters who spot the problem can ask for a new ballot. Woodall-Vogg assures impacted voters that their votes will still count.

"We have already made a record, a note of the issue, so on Election Day, if someone’s ballot doesn’t have stamps or initials, there’s a procedure for that where we will just record that on the back of the inspector's statement," said Woodall-Vogg. "It does not jeopardize a voters’ ballot being counted on Election Day."

Another FOX6 viewer reported receiving two absentee ballots in the mail and shared a photo showing both envelopes.

Woodall-Vogg admitted they had a problem with address labels that resulted in sending two ballots to a handful of voters. She said they have checks and balances in place that would stop a second ballot from the same person from being counted.

For those with absentee ballots, when you're done with your ballot, you cannot drop it in the now closed and covered absentee ballot drop boxes, as a Wisconsin judge ruled they were illegal. The Wisconsin Supreme Court will weigh the issue after this April election.

Still, one person used another drop box for his absentee ballot.

"We had it happen today where someone used the book return to put their ballots, so we’ll be mailing that ballot back to the voter, will attempt to call them, so they’ll know to expect it and that they have to return it to early voting during voting hours, or our office or just stick it in the post office mail," said Woodall-Vogg.

Bob Donovan, candidate for Milwaukee mayor, criticized absentee ballot drop boxes Tuesday while Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson said drop boxes are secure and convenient.


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