Election officials confident in process, urge patience for voters

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – Election officials are confident in the integrity and security around the process for this November’s contests but want voters to be patient as they prepare for an unprecedented amount of absentee ballots by mail.

“We’re going to continue to emphasize accuracy over speed,” Meagan Wolfe, the Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator said in a virtual “On the Issues” event hosted by Marquette University Wednesday.

Wolfe said the state has already surpassed one million requests for absentee ballots by mail this week. While voters can send back ballots as soon as they complete them, officials cannot begin to process them until the morning of Election Day, something they anticipate will be a challenge.

“We’re going to get all of these absentee ballots, however, we still only have 13 hours to process them and I think that’s where we’re going to fall down a little bit and we’re going to learn some lessons,” Brookfield City Clerk Kelly Michaels said.

Because of that, results will likely not be fully ready on election night.

“We are not anticipating that we will be done right at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.,” Milwaukee Elections Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg said. “But I’m hopeful that by the time the sun comes up one November 4 that we will be finished and have election results, but it’s definitely a concern.”

Officials urge voters who vote absentee by mail to have a plan to return their ballot as soon as possible in order to ensure it is received by Election Day and clerks have time to be able to contact voters in the event there is an issue that needs to be addressed with a certain ballot.

Voters have the option to return absentee ballots through the U.S. Postal Service or drop it off at community drop-off boxes or clerk’s offices. People can also vote early in-person beginning two weeks ahead of Election Day.

For in-person voting, officials today said they anticipate avoiding the debacle of the April election in which some communities had to limit polling places because of poll worker shortages.

Woodall-Vogg said since the August primary election, Milwaukee has received more than 1,100 applicants for poll worker positions. Meagan Wolfe also noted that conversations are ongoing with the Governor Tony Evers administration in the event the National Guard is needed to help fill roles where there are shortages.

Another issue officials discussed was potential disturbances that may occur on Election Day at polling places given the heated rhetoric and emotions around the election. Wolfe said the state and local entities are taking steps to address the issue, including de-escalation training.

“Giving our clerks and our poll workers tools that they can use to deescalate situations is also going to be an important part of our training in the next few weeks,” Wolfe said.

For more information on voting as well as how to become a poll worker in your community, visit: myvote.wi.gov

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