Election Results: When will Wisconsin’s ballots be counted by?
October 23, 2020
At this point, it is common knowledge that the full results of the 2020 presidential election will not be known on Election Night. The pandemic has pushed voters to overload state election systems as well as the United States Postal Service with tens of millions of postal ballot (both “mail-in” and “absentee”) requests, something which nearly all states were unprepared for. It’ll all come down to the swing states, as per usual. This time, however, it’s a question of when we’ll get these results.
For an explanation about the difference between mail-in and absentee ballots, check out this piece here by Ben Wilson: The Difference Between Absentee and Mail-In Ballots.
Like Michigan, Wisconsin is (or was) considered part of the Democrats’ “Blue Wall” of support in the Great Lakes region. Here, blue-collar support has traditionally been strong and well-organized, with this bloc of voters having voted Democratic for decades. That changed in 2016, when a certain Donald Trump became the Republicans’ nominee for president. Trump won the state with less than 23,000 votes.
Ordinarily, 6% of Badger State voters cast absentee ballots, according to The Wisconsin State Journal.
“But this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, a record-high number of ballots are being cast absentee,” said The State Journal. “As of Tuesday, more than 915,000 absentee ballots had been returned out of 1.4 million requested. That is 30% of the total ballots cast in 2016.”
Additionally, for a ballot to be counted, it must be received by the election clerk by 8 pm (Central Time). However, that could change. The State Journal reports that the U.S. Supreme Court is contemplating “a lawsuit that seeks to extend the deadline for counting absentee ballots received by Nov. 9.”
This law could severely delay the results for quite a few days by creating a backlog of ballots that, on Election Day, election workers have to count on top of the votes from polling stations that very day.
Further complicating matters, Wisconsin has a specific rule which mandates that the vote count cannot be paused, even for an evening, until all the ballots are counted. According to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, this law “doesn’t allow local officials to stop their count and reconvene the next morning, so many of them will have to pull an all-nighter.”
Assembling all these details together, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that most of Wisconsin’s results will be revealed within a week after November 3. Regardless, so many variables are up in the air and, as I’ve said previously in this series, anything can happen—especially in 2020.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.