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Voters should not expect election results on Election Day, asking voters to be ‘patient’

Published: Oct. 13, 2020 at 6:16 PM CDT
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Wis. (WBAY) - “I’m anticipating it to be very similar to other elections other than the fact it will take longer to process absentees,” said Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell.

November’s election will be the third time Wisconsinites have gone to the polls during the pandemic.

Municipal, county and state leaders are asking voters to be patient when it comes to results this time around, saying voters likely wont know, even projected winners, the night of the election.

“Election night results are never official,” said Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin Election Commission administrator. “Never in the history of elections has an election night had official results of an election.”

Whether a candidate declares victory or a party does on election night after following results, it’s important to remember those results are preliminary and aren’t official until weeks after Election Day.

“There’s three levels of certification before results are ever official on election night,” said Wolfe.

Wolfe said each municipality is required to certify results.

“They look at the poll books and make sure they have the same number of signatures as issued ballots on election day, they check the absentee ballot log and reconcile any problems before it’s certified,” said Wolfe.

After being verified by the municipality, those results then go to the county for the same type of verification. After the county certifies the results, they go to the state for one final check to make sure every vote is legal and counted.

“All those things always take almost a month. This election will be no different,” said Wolfe.

But, what will be different this election is the shear magnitude of absentee ballots expected by clerks, which will take time to get through and delay preliminary results. Absentee ballots take longer to process because of the security measures workers have to go through to make sure the ballot is verified and legal.

“Taking time to make sure the ballots are counted and accurately is a good thing. It should take time. It’s appropriate and responsible,” said George Christenson, Milwaukee County Court. “People need to understand that it’s not a cause for concern.”

With the amount of absentee ballots expected in Milwaukee, the county’s election director said it will take about 18-23 hours to process all of them.

“We are anticipating finishing this process between 3-6 am the morning after the election,” said Julietta Henry.

Henry said some of the county’s tabulators can process between 1,000-2,000 ballots an hour, while others only process about 500.

“We do live in this environment where everyone wants instant gratification. While we do have the latest technology and most secure technology, election reporting still takes time and it’s more important to get them right, than fast,” said Christenson. “Be patient and understanding with clerks all across our state, this is a huge task, huge undertaking and people have to understand that.”

To check on your absentee ballot or to see if you are registered, head to myvote.wi.gov.

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