Milwaukee election leaders call for federal investigation into missing absentee ballots

MILWAUKEE -- "I thought, 'Well, I'm doing it two weeks before, that should be plenty of time,'" Cheryl Nenn said during a Zoom interview from her Milwaukee home. Nenn says she requested her absentee ballot on March 21, 2020. When she checked the status of her ballot online, it said the ballot was sent to her on March 22. Nenn isn't the only one. More than 145 people emailed FOX6 on Election Day, saying they requested absentee ballots that never arrived. 64 percent of those people said they requested their ballots at least two weeks prior to the election.

In particular, nearly half of the 145 requests were grouped in the same week: March 16 through March 22; several sent FOX6 screen shots of their ballot's online status, showing it had been mailed on or near March 22. "'All of the ballots that were mailed out on the 22nd were lost in the mail,' is pretty much what they told me," Milwaukee voter Elora Maloney said, describing her attempts to follow up after her absentee ballot did not arrive.

Neil Albrecht

FOX6 sent Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Neil Albrecht questions about the missing ballots. A few hours later, he announced he is asking the United States Postal Service to investigate. Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe during a media call Wednesday acknowledged hearing reports about missing absentee ballots throughout the state that were supposedly mailed between March 22 and March 24. Thirty minutes prior, State Senator Dan Feyen sent out a press release saying the U.S. Postal Service "found three large tubs of absentee ballots from voters in Oshkosh and Appleton."

Wolfe said Wednesday afternoon she could not yet say exactly what happened, or how, because she had not received specific details from the U.S. Postal Service. Wolfe said the state's election system does not electronically track each absentee ballot as though it is a package. Instead, the system that tells voters when their ballots have been sent to them relies on municipal elections clerks entering the data through varying processes. "So some of them might print labels, others might go in manually and one by one enter when they sent the ballot," Wolfe said. In a statement provided before Wolfe spoke to the press, a Wisconsin Election Commission spokesperson said there is an effort to make improvements to the fall election cycle. Voters like Cheryl Nenn say they understand the system was overwhelmed this year. Nenn opted for drive-thru voting when her absentee ballot had not arrived a few days before the election, but she says she knows several others who did not have that option. "So hopefully, they'll be able to figure out what happened and make sure it doesn't happen again," Nenn.