Election Day is Tuesday, November 3. Wisconsin polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Find your polling place HERE.
So, um, what should you expect when it comes to the whole “counting the votes” thing? And what about the whole “counting the unprecedented number of absentee ballots” thing? First, BE PATIENT. Second, peruse these handy bullet points for more information:
• In the City of Milwaukee, poll workers will begin counting returned absentee ballots (and ballots cast via early in-person voting) at 7 a.m. on Election Day. The counting will take place at a central count facility in Downtown Milwaukee. Three shifts of poll workers will handle the counting.
• The City of Milwaukee estimates there will be 175,000 ballots to be counted. Roughly 157,000 ballots have already been returned. Any absentee ballots received after 8 p.m. on Election Day will not be counted.
• Totals from absentee ballots will not be announced until every last ballot is counted. Counting is expected to finish up between 3 and 6 a.m.
• There will be multiple livestreams from the City of Milwaukee’s central count facility beginning at 7 a.m. and lasting until every last ballot is counted. Watch the streams here:
• There are 39 Wisconsin municipalities spread out over 14 counties that use central count. See them HERE.
• Nearly 2 million absentee ballots have been issued throughout the state. Ninety-one percent have been returned.
• Wisconsin has a law that requires initial results to be tallied by Wednesday at 4 p.m. If that doesn’t happen, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes, “litigation could follow.”
More information from Milwaukee County Elections Director Julietta Henry:
“As a result of the ongoing efforts to increase absentee voting, and the unprecedented number of absentee ballots that we anticipate receiving, the process of opening each ballot and envelope and processing those ballots is going to take quite some time. There are 19 municipalities in Milwaukee County, of which eight utilize central count. Central count is when the absentee ballots are opened at a central location for each municipality.
“The City of Milwaukee utilizes 12 high-speed voting machines to process their absentee ballots. They are able to process between 1,000 and 2,000 ballots per hour once they are open. The other seven municipalities utilize the DS200 voting machines, and they are able to process 500 absentee ballots per hour. We are anticipating finishing this process between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. the morning after the election.
“There are over 478 reporting units in Milwaukee County. At the polling location, each chief inspector will close the polls once every voter who stood in line has cast his or her ballot. After closing the polls, they will transmit the data to the county via modem. Once we have received all of the modem results and are at 100%, we are now able to inform the central count users to transmit those results via modem. In addition, they send us a completed spreadsheet with their results. This allows us to compare the polling location and central count results together, and they now equal the final result.
“For the eight central count users—including the City of Milwaukee, Franklin, Oak Creek, West Allis, Wauwatosa, Shorewood, South Milwaukee, and the Village of Greendale—the initial results will only consist of the ballots cast in person at the polling locations on Election Day, and will not include absentee ballots counts. After the absentee ballots have been completely processed at the central count locations, the vote totals from those absentee ballots will be added to the polling locations. The complete result sets of poll totals and the absentee ballot totals for each ward will then be posted on the Milwaukee County website. Results for each ward and municipality that use central count to process absentee ballots will not be considered complete until all absentee ballot totals have been added to the polling place totals.
“The central count users are required to post the number of outstanding provisional ballots issued on Election Cay. Central count municipalities are required to post the number of absentee ballots issued and the number they have returned by the close of polls on Tuesday.”
More information from Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe:
“Results on Election Night are always unofficial, and they’re always going to be incomplete. Here’s how it works: In Milwaukee County alone there are over 400 reporting units. Reporting units are those smaller districts and wards that you’re going to find in each community. When a reporting unit is finished counting, they post those results. They’re required to send those results to their county clerk, and then their county clerk is required to post those unofficial results on their website. You can’t transmit results from a polling place—an individual reporting unit—until that reporting unit is complete.
“The statutes do allow, though, for jurisdictions to use central count. That’s where the absentees aren’t counted at polling places. For the majority of Wisconsin municipalities, the absentee ballots are counted at the polling places. Prior to Election Day, they find what polling place each ballot goes to, and your ballot is sent to your poll to be counted. In those jurisdictions, when you see the unofficial results posted for that reporting unit on the county’s website, that includes absentees.
“For 39 of our communities, they use what we call central count for counting absentees. That’s where all absentee ballots are counted in one central location. You’re going to see the results coming in from each of the polling places, the reporting units, and they can send those in when 100% of their in-person ballots have been counted. But they’re not going to include the absentees for that reporting unit, because they’re being counted centrally, and then that whole result set from that central count facility is later added into each of those individual reporting units.
“A lot of times on Election Night, there’s confusion because voters or the media will see those results coming in from the reporting units and not realize that the central count absentees have not yet been added. There’s no aggregate either on Election Night. State law says each reporting unit has to send their unofficial results to their county clerk, the county clerk then has to post those unofficial results, by reporting unit, on their website, and then the state…the law says that we have a list of the 72 county links where you can go and find those results by reporting units. So, Election Night results are always unofficial, there’s no official aggregate, and results aren’t certified until that statutory deadline of December 1.”