Hundreds of absentee ballots for April election in Marathon County rejected

Published: Apr. 17, 2020 at 8:09 PM CDT
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Hundreds of absentee ballots were rejected from being counted towards April 7 election results in Marathon County, according to data provided by county clerk Kim Trueblood who collected information from municipal clerks.

Since 2012 according to data from the Wisconsin Elections Commission, the average absentee ballot rejection rate in Wisconsin has hovered at around 1% of returned absentee ballots. Statewide, Wisconsin saw an unprecedented surge of more than a million absentee ballot requests for the April 7 election, more than quadrupling previous records of around 250,000 requests in 2016. After multiple court rulings changing allowable postmark dates and briefly waiving witness signatures before requiring them again, 575 absentee ballots were rejected in Marathon County, or 2.6% of returned ballots.

Marquette law school poll director Charles Franklin says he’s seeing rejection rates between 1 and 5% emerge around the state, but cautions against drawing any statewide projections until the WEC makes the data official and available from all counties, which is several weeks away. Currently, unofficial results are only available at municipal and county levels as clerks continue post-election processing.

In Marshfield, 48 ballots were rejected for either missing a witness signature or being postmarked after April 7, according to the municipal clerk. Wausau city clerk Leslie Kremer told NewsChannel 7 that the majority of ballots rejected in the city were due to issues with witness signatures. A handful of those included the waivers that no witness was available, which for a short period of time were deemed allowable under a federal court ruling that was quickly overturned. Most, however, were due to other witness signature and address issues, Kremer said.

Counting is still ongoing in Stevens Point, which on Friday was at 88 ballots rejected. County clerks are not responsible for tracking specific reasons for rejected ballots, Trueblood told NewsChannel 7; municipal clerks are still processing that data in Wausau and other municipalities around the area.

Clerks in other parts of the state--such as Eau Claire and Menominee--have reported hundreds of rejected ballots due to an absence of postmarks, being postmarked after April 7, and missing signatures, according to reporting from the Leader-Telegram.

“The counties that used less than 50% of their votes by absentee are the rural parts of the central and northern parts of the state,” Franklin told NewsChannel 7. According to graphics Franklin published on Twitter relying on data from the New York Times, counties with under 50% of their total vote as absentee include Lincoln, Langlade, Price, Taylor and Clark counties. Marathon, Wood and Portage counties fell within the 60-70% absentee percentage of total votes.

While Franklin says it’s likely that more Democrats than Republican chose to vote absentee for the April election based on poll data showing more concern about coronavirus among Democrats, he adds that election results from April 7 provide no indication that a higher absentee turnout resulted in better liberal results.

“At least at the county level, there’s no relationship between the percent of ballots that were cast absentee and the percent of the vote for the liberal candidate Karofsky in the Supreme Court race,” he noted, adding that municipal tallies might differ.

Individuals wishing to track their own ballot using the My Vote website to see if their ballot was counted will likely have to wait another week or two, Trueblood said earlier this week, as municipal clerks continue to input data into the My Vote system.

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