Milwaukee Might Toss Out “Record Number” of Absentee Ballots

Stricter requirements for mailed absentee ballots in Wisconsin could result in Milwaukee — the state’s largest city — tossing out a record number of votes in November. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported on Oct. 7 that the city’s election commission could reject thousands of mailed ballots because they lacked an address for the required witness.

A 2015 change in state law added the requirement for the witness address; previously mailed ballots without them were still counted. Wisconsin’s Elections and Ethics Commissions has informed local officials of their options for handling such ballots; voters can request a new one or supply the missing information in several ways.

Milwaukee already had received about 400 mailed ballots without witness addresses as of last week. If voters don’t provide the missing information or replace the ballot, the number of rejected ballots would dwarf previous elections.

In the 2012 presidential election, Milwaukee County (which contains the city) rejected 261 absentee ballots out of more than 57,000 cast, according to data collected by the Election Assistance Commission, a federal body that studies elections.

The small number of rejected absentee ballots — less than one-half of 1 percent of all absentee ballots returned by voters in 2012 — increased slightly in 2014, but if the numbers reported by the Journal-Sentinel hold up, the city will see a record amount of rejected absentee ballots this year.

Derek Willis

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