'Unfortunate:' Milwaukee officials report hundreds of absentee ballots missing witness signatures

MILWAUKEE -- After an Election Day like no other on Tuesday, April 7 -- with thousands of Wisconsin voters waiting hours in line to cast ballots at overcrowded polling stations amid a pandemic -- officials with the Wisconsin Elections Commission on Wednesday, April 8 reported that just over one million absentee ballots had been returned statewide. This, after an unprecedented 1.2 million absentee ballots were requested by Wisconsin voters.

In order to be counted, all absentee ballots were required to be postmarked by Election Day. Once received, a careful process of counting the ballots, and tallying the votes started.

"We saw an extraordinary, record volume of absentee ballots issued to voters," said Neil Albrecht, Milwaukee Election Commission executive director.

When combining the number of ballots returned by 8 p.m. Tuesday with the number collected at drop boxes, Albrecht said as of Wednesday afternoon, more than 60,000 absentee ballots in Milwaukee were returned. A total of 96,712 were issued in the city.

Neil Albrecht

"I've often made a reference to, for example, a past presidential election, 2016, where we had only 15,000 by-mail absentee voters," said Albrecht.

At the central counting location in downtown Milwaukee, hundreds of workers reported to process ballots -- beginning at 7 a.m. Tuesday, and continuing throughout the day Wednesday. Returned absentee ballots that met all requirements were assigned a voter number.

"And then their ballots are being fed into high-speed processors," said Albrecht.

Albrecht said in this election, officials noticed an increase in absentee ballots missing a very important element.

"Witness signatures were obviously a big issue this election," said Albrecht.

Counting absentee ballots

Counting absentee ballots

As of Wednesday, he said at least 750 ballots were rejected for that reason.

"We usually don't see any, or a very low number, so it's unfortunate," said Albrecht. "And because there was no accommodation in state law in the midst of a pandemic for this issue, those individuals are going to lose their votes in the election."

This, with many more votes to count, and ballots to process.

"We are not done yet," said Albrecht.

Counting absentee ballots

Absentee ballot processing will continue until Monday, April 13, the deadline to accept any absentee ballots -- as long as they were postmarked by April 7. Any ballots received after April 13 will be rejected.

Counting absentee ballots

See a county by county breakdown of absentee ballot data by CLICKING HERE -- or in graphic form by CLICKING HERE.