In a year like no other, here is our running update on what the voters are thinking, saying, and choosing. Bookmark this page and check back often for stories and important links.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 4 – 2:40 p.m.
Denied an Extension, Outagamie County Officials Found a Way to Count Misprinted Ballots Without a Lengthy Delay
After Outagamie and Calumet counties were denied an extension by the Wisconsin Supreme Court to count misprinted ballots, poll workers managed to pull off processing and counting all ballots by 2 a.m. on Wednesday.
Outagamie County Clerk Lori O’Bright posted on the county’s elections page at 12:42 Wednesday morning that, “the municipalities, their clerks/staffs, and numerous poll workers worked extensively throughout the day and evening of November 3, 2020, and into the early morning hours of November 4, 2020, to process an unprecedented number of absentee ballots.”
“That processing included necessary duplication of ballots that were misprinted, while poll workers also assisted voters on Election Day at the polls,” O’Bright wrote. “Those municipalities that anticipated the ballot misprint ensured they had adequate poll workers to process absentee ballots carefully so that every vote counted [sic] and that returns were provided in a timely fashion.”
The misprint is a scratch that is described as no wider than a fingernail on a timing mark at the edge of the Outagamie County ballot, and it does not impact any contests, candidates or ballot referenda. However, it makes the ballot unreadable by a tabulator.
Wisconsin state law requires all ballots be counted by 4 p.m. the day after the election.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 4 – 12:45 p.m.
During a late morning briefing, Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meghan Wolfe made sure everyone understood the degree of transparency and caution that go into counting every voter’s ballot.
“Despite more absentee ballots, the evening proceeded in a very normal fashion. Our election was executed with precision. Every step of the process is publicly observable,” Wolfe said.
And then repeated herself with great emphasis.
“And I think that’s really important. Every step of the election process is publicly observable.”
“You can observe Election Day and voters casting their ballot.”
“You can observe the votes being tallied at night.”
“The voter registration records are public information. The absentee data is public information.”
See her review of the ballot counting process here:
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 4 – 8:10 a.m.
State Elections Administrator: Everything Has Worked As It Should and the Certification Process Rolls On
Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe released a statement this morning reaffirming the smooth operation of the state’s election count so far and providing an update on how the counting, confirming, and certification will unfold through Wednesday and beyond.
“Wisconsin’s counting and reporting of unofficial results has gone according to law,” her statement said. “Our municipal and county clerks have worked tirelessly throughout the night to make sure every valid ballot is counted and reported accurately.”
“Today, the Wisconsin Elections Commission staff will be standing ready to assist clerks as they start the process of triple-checking the results. This includes randomly selecting 5% of reporting units for voting equipment audits which must occur before results are certified as required by law on December 1.”
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 4 – 6:18 a.m.
As expected overnight, President Donald Trump’s lead in Wisconsin evaporated once a record number of absentee ballots were counted in the state’s largest communities. With results from Green Bay and Kenosha arriving just after 6 a.m., former Vice President Joe Biden is now ahead in Wisconsin by around 20,000 votes.
When the Green Bay’s absentee ballot count finished at 4:20 a.m., it gave Biden an additional margin of approximately 4,000 votes.
The city of Kenosha numbers, as reported by Kenosha County, provided Biden with an additional net gain of 9,000 votes. Trump still carried the full county, but by fewer than 3,000 votes.
Biden took the Wisconsin lead from President Donald Trump overnight when Milwaukee’s absentee ballots were counted and Biden carried that county by almost 183,000 votes.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 4 – 12:27 a.m.
As we reported last week, Ozaukee County voters are drifting away from their rigid Republican neighbors in Waukesha and Washington counties. And now there’s a new Democrat representing part of the so-called “WOW” region as Deb Andraca unseats 14-year Republican Assembly Rep. Jim Ott in a district that stretches along the Lake Michigan shore of northern Milwaukee County and up through eastern Ozaukee County to Port Washington.
Ozaukee County Democratic Party Chair Deb Dassow knew former Vice President Joe Biden wasn’t going to carry her home county, but she told UpNorthNews she would be crossing her fingers for Biden to win 40% of the vote in a continuation of a slow-but-steady shift in the Republican stronghold.
When the Ozaukee County votes were all counted, Biden got 43%.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 4 – 12:08 a.m.
Generations of young voters have been criticized for Election Day apathy, but we found voters in and around UW-Stout who very clearly felt the responsibility of taking part in the 2020 choice of a president. And an even younger participant, 15-year-old Catherine Zons of Colfax, explained why she wanted to be a poll worker for the first time.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3 – 10:55 p.m.
The City of Green Bay is bracing itself for a long night, though Election Day appears to have gone rather smoothly.
“The spirits of everyone were so positive today,” said Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich at a 9 p.m. press conference. “It was nice seeing everyone enjoying the process.”
As of 8:30 p.m., the city reported it had processed 20,316 absentee ballots of the more than 31,000 cast, so a little less than two-thirds through the process.
Out of the city’s 47 wards, 34 had reported a total of 12,096 votes cast on Election Day.
Because the city changed a few of its polling locations, some individuals were reported to have showed up at the wrong location, but Genrich said that as far as he knew those individuals were redirected to the correct polling place in time to cast a ballot.
Police Chief Andrew Smith said a small rally had taken place outside the central count which is taking place at the KI Convention Center. Smith said about a dozen individuals showed up to rally for every vote to be counted and to raise the minimum wage. The rally went on for less than an hour before the group dispersed.
But overall, it was a quiet Election Day in Green Bay, certainly compared to last spring.
“I think the big difference is we had a matter of weeks to prepare for that election right at that front end of the pandemic,” Genrich said. “We had six months to prepare for this so I think we’ve used that time really wisely.”
—Reported by Christina Lieffring
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3 – 10:48 p.m.
Here’s Looking at You, Wisconsin, as You Went to the Polls
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3 – 9:40 p.m.
No “Both Parties Are the Same” False Equivalency This Time. Ballots Were Cast with Fervor for Biden or Trump.
The polls are closed, and the long night of counting is underway. Election Day in Wisconsin could be described as overwhelmingly uneventful. There was a lack of drama and a decided lack of antipathy. Unlike past presidential races which featured a healthy serving of voters who claimed the two major parties and candidates weren’t that different from one another, the 2020 race was filled with Wisconsin voters who strongly support President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden.
Those voting for Trump said they backed his economic policies.
“A lot of what [Trump] has been saying really resonates with me,” said Elliott Nelson, a senior at UW-Stout. “I really like his policies on jobs and taxes.”
Reyes Cruz-Ramirez, voting at the Kenosha Public Museum, said it was Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus and its crippling effects on the economy that solidified his vote for Biden.
“It kind of made my decision more [clear],” Cruz-Ramirez said. “I wasn’t against Trump. I was open-minded about it, but after seeing a lot of things, a lot of the race issues, I mean, I kind of… Okay, yeah.”
Whatever happens with the election, Kenosha County will likely be a nail-biter.
“It’s just gonna be one of those nights where everybody’s on edge—a lot of anxiety,” Cruz-Ramirez said.
In her 9 p.m. briefing, Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe confirmed the smooth operation of elections across the state. Despite scattered instances of poll workers bowing out at the last minute over COVID-19 concerns, there were no emergency shortages that necessitated the use Wisconsin National Guard members.
Wolfe said about 200 men and women—volunteers in civilian clothes—were on reserve for a few “jurisdictions that said ‘hey, we could use an extra hand counting ballots.'”
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3 – 8:17 p.m.
Rural Perry’s Only Polling Site Finally Gets Internet and Toilet for Election Day
Voters were already lining up outside the 109-year-old Perry Town Hall in the southwestern-most corner of Dane County before the rays of the rising sun reached the bottom of the valley.
“Our doors opened at 7 a.m., and we already had a line 15 minutes before that,’’ said poll worker Cindy Way. “The line never went away for the first hour we were open.”
Perry voters experienced several firsts on Election Day. It’s the first time the town hall, built in 1911 as the Forward rural school, has had indoor toilets or an internet connection, thanks to a grant through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
Clerk Mary Price says the Wi-Fi will allow her to take photos of the voting machine tape and email them to election officials. Cell phones still don’t work in the valley.
Price said 252 of the town’s 561 voters, or 45%, had already cast their ballots before Election Day, said Clerk Mary Price. She said that those who voted early did so via absentee ballots or during two early voting sessions held in October.
“We had them on Saturday mornings so we got a lot of people coming and going to the town dump,’’ she said.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3 – 4:15 p.m.
Outagamie County Clerk Lori O’Bright is reporting some good news and some bad news as her team deals with a batch of misprinted ballots guaranteed to make their counting process run late into the night.
The good news is that they are seeing fewer of the misprinted ballots in the late batch of absentee mail. O’Bright said some voters may have purposefully spoiled their ballot and requested a new, correctly printed ballot be sent. Others with misprinted ballots may have chosen to instead take part in early in-person voting. And it’s also possible, she said, that there were fewer misprinted ballots than the 13,500 originally feared.
The misprint is a scratch that is described as no wider than a fingernail on a timing mark at the edge of the ballot, and it does not impact any contests, candidates or ballot referenda. However, it makes the ballot unreadable by a tabulator. Election officials will have to replicate each misprinted ballot—in front of a witness—and then run the replicate through the tabulator.
With fewer misprints arriving, many extra volunteers were released from having to do counting tonight in the town of Grand Chute. However, Appleton, Kaukauna, Kimberly, and two nearby towns will all have a long night of tabulation ahead and have brought in additional workers.
Oh, the other “bad” news? O’Bright said the beautiful weather has boosted turnout which will also make for a longer count after 8 p.m.
—Reported by Christina Lieffring
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3 – 2:12 p.m.
On an Election Day where many voters stayed home and voted absentee due to coronavirus concerns, the state Department of Health Services announced a record 5,771 new COVID-19 cases in Tuesday’s daily report, smashing the previous one-day high of 5,278 set only three days ago, on Saturday.
Additionally, another 52 coronavirus-related deaths were recorded around the state, raising the pandemic’s Wisconsin death toll to 2,102. COVID-19 deaths started surging on October 13, and since that date there have been 628 lives lost in Wisconsin because of the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Hospital Association reported a record number of COVID-19 patients needing hospitalization (1,714) and a record number of total Wisconsin patients on ventilators (530).
[Story updated with Tuesday hospitalization numbers.]
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3 – 2:05 p.m.
Eau Claire City Clerk: Every Absentee Ballot Will Be Counted
There are more than 22,000 absentee ballots to process at polling stations around the city of Eau Claire. City Clerk Carrie Riepl told UpNorthNews reporter Julian Emerson they have been distributed and are being tabulated throughout the day, and poll workers will work for as long as it takes to ensure every vote is counted.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3 – 1:50 p.m.
After an initial surge of voters when polls opened, polling places in Racine were getting voters in and out fairly quickly throughout the day, according to Racine Mayor Cory Mason. Wait times were about 15 to 45 minutes “on the high end,” he said.
“We’ve had a steady flow of voters,” Mason said.
About 52% of the city’s registered voters already voted absentee, Mason said.
“Regardless of the outcome today, I think this pandemic will forever change how people vote, and our approach to it,” Mason said.
However, he said he was concerned that about 20% of sent absentee ballots have not been returned. He wasn’t sure if that was due to US Postal Service issues or because people never sent them back, but he urged voters to either vote in person or bring their absentee ballot to an early voting location or polling station “as soon as possible.”
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3 – 1:43 p.m.
Thiensville’s Clerk-Treasurer Amy Langlois said when polls opened, a line was out the door of Village Hall for about two hours before things calmed down.
She was taken aback by the line because 73% of the 2,400 registered voters in the Ozaukee County community had already voted absentee, she said. But she was ready.
“This is like my Super Bowl,” Langlois said. “I woke up like game day.”
Despite the suburbs receiving a gargantuan amount of attention leading up to the election, Democrats have had little luck with a major breakthrough in the Republican stronghold “WOW” counties—Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington—surrounding Milwaukee.
But as UpNorthNews reported last week, there has been a slight yet noticeable shift toward Democrats in the WOW counties in recent years, and nowhere more pronounced than Ozaukee County, where the local Democratic Party thinks Biden could reach 40% of the vote—more than any other Democratic presidential candidate has garnered in decades.
Trump had the worst performance of a Republican presidential candidate in Ozaukee County since 1996, but he is still practically guaranteed a win in the county. What is uncertain is whether he will outdo his previous vote share of 55.8%.
Thiensville, on the southern end of the county near the Milwaukee County border, is a small politically mixed village of about 3,200 residents.
Voter Matt Laing said he sees Trump’s re-election as the best possible outcome for the nation. He said the Democratic Party has been “despicable” to the president throughout his term
“I would feel much more confident in the way the country goes if Donald Trump wins again,” he said.
Aree Wickman, a Mequon resident who was walking her dog near Thiensville Village Hall, said the opposite.
“Regardless of his policies and purpose for America, the way he treats others and lack of respect for everyone is unacceptable and something I will not let my children see as the leader of our country,” Wickman said. “Kindness is where it all starts. If we don’t have kindness and love, we don’t have a world to live in that’s safe and happy.”
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3 – 1:33 p.m.
While a record 55% of eligible voters in River Falls had already cast their ballots prior to Election Day—far more than in past elections—that still left plenty of others who wanted to vote in person on Tuesday, City Clerk Amy White said.
City Hall is one of four polling locations in River Falls.
“It’s been steady most of the morning,” White said at 11:30 a.m. “Even with all of those absentee votes, we’ve had lots of people showing up.”
In another room at City Hall, a team of 10 election workers counted the more than 5,000 absentee ballots cast in the city. White said she doubled her usual team of five to tally absentee votes to keep up with the unprecedented number. Statewide, a record 1.9 million people voted absentee.
White said she hopes the added resources toward absentee votes will allow election results to be tallied by the day’s end. “We’re trying to get this done before it gets too late tonight,” she said with a laugh.
Fears related to COVID-19 caused a shortage of election workers in the April election and the August primary, White said, prompting the closure of one polling place. But even as cases of the virus are surging in Pierce County and elsewhere across Wisconsin, many people stepped up to work at voting locations for this election, she said.
“It was really a heartening surprise,” she said, “seeing people step up and do what was needed.”
Carrie Olson said she felt she needed to make sure and vote in this election. The River Falls resident said current economic struggles and rising COVID-19 cases prompted her to cast her ballot.
Olson brought along her 9-year-old daughter Sarah to give her “an example of the importance of voting,” she said.
—Reported by Julian Emerson
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3 – 1:00 p.m.
There’s no prize for it, but at least one voter in Green Bay was lined up to cast a ballot at 5:30 a.m., according to Mayor Eric Genrich.
“Things are going really well all across the City of Green Bay,” Genrich said at a late morning conference where he noted things were running smoothly at the city’s 16 polling locations.
“It’s great to see that enthusiasm,” Genrich said. “People are really interested in exercising their right to vote today.”
As of Tuesday morning, the city had received 31,589 absentee ballots which is approximately 55% of registered voters, and had received 3,600 votes cast in-person as of 10 a.m. So far, 2,500 to 3,000 have been processed.
Genrich has been saying for weeks that the election results may not be fully tabulated until early Wednesday morning.
Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith told reporters he had officers patrolling to keep an eye out for any instances of voter intimidation and that plain-clothes officers were at the KI Convention Center which is serving as the central count station for absentee ballots.
Smith warned the public to be skeptical of rumors spread on social media. He said a retired officer had warned him that there was a post being shared on social media that the central count had been moved surreptitiously.
“That’s baloney,” Smith said, noting the city had decided over the summer to use the convention center.
“Oftentimes during elections or during times like this people start putting things out on social media,” Smith said. “Just don’t believe the stuff you read on social media until you verify.”
Smith said he had heard from groups that planned to hold rallies this evening, and his department was facilitating efforts to ensure they remained peaceful.
—Reported by Christina Lieffring
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3 – 12:00 p.m.
Election Day Morning Is in the Books, and All’s Well So Far
A record 1.9 million Wisconsin residents voted absentee in the weeks prior to Election Day, many seeking to avoid possibly contracting the coronavirus. But Wisconsin’s 2,408 local polling places are still seeing plenty of traffic for in-person voting that began at 7 a.m.
Whether casting their ballots Republican, Democratic, or third-party, voters tell UpNorthNews they’re motivated by strong convictions about the future direction of Wisconsin and the country.
Here’s the full report from UpNorthNews reporters fanned out across the state.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3 – 8:00 a.m.
Absentee Ballots Cast: 1.9 Million, with 141,776 Still Out There
The Tuesday morning report from the Wisconsin Elections Commission shows 1,924,838 early votes have been cast through a combination of mailed or dropped-off absentee ballots and people who have voted absentee in person at their local election clerk’s office or other early voting sites.
With 2,066,614 total ballots mailed out, that leaves 141,776 outstanding ballots. An unknown number are in transit through the mail. Other voters who still have their absentee ballots can fill them in and drop them off at their local polling place before 8 p.m. As always, the absentee ballot envelope must be signed by the voter and by a witness. Voters still holding onto absentee ballots also have the option to vote in person instead. Polling place officials have a record of which voters had ballots mailed to them as a safeguard against any attempt to double vote.
Any ballots mailed today will not arrive at polling places or clerks’ offices in time and will not count.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3 – 6:45 a.m.
It’s the Social Media Version of an ‘I Voted’ Sticker—the Polling Place Selfie Station
Katie Rosenberg, who was elected Wausau’s mayor in April, is adamant about getting as many people to vote as possible and decided to use her background in marketing as a way to boost turnout.
“This election feels really heavy right now, with COVID-19 and the really serious issues we are facing,” Rosenberg said. “I thought ‘How can we make voting more fun?’ If you want people to do things, you have to market it to them.“
So Rosenberg ordered selfie photo stations for each of the city’s five polling locations. The stations are white walls covered with “My Vote Counts” and “I Voted Today” messages in blue and red letters. The units cost about $130 apiece, she said, and came from Rosenberg’s mayoral promotions budget.
Once people have voted and received their “I Voted” sticker, they can pose by the stations set up outside polling places and take a selfie photo to celebrate having voted, then post those pictures on social media.
“This is a fun way for people to do something important, to get people excited about voting,” Rosenberg said.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 2 – 4:30 p.m.
Drowning in Absentee Ballots, Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties Expect Results Early Wednesday
Milwaukee and Waukesha counties, home to about 1.4 million Wisconsinites, likely will not publish final election results until 3 a.m. or later Wednesday morning, the counties’ top election officials said in a Monday afternoon media briefing.
The delay was not unexpected, as a massive uptick in absentee voting has for months been anticipated to cause issues for timely release of election results.
Julietta Henry, the Milwaukee County elections director, said results could come as late as 6 a.m. Wednesday, while Waukesha County Clerk Meg Wartman said she expects results around 3 a.m.
“Be patient for election night results,” said Meagan Wolfe, administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, who also participated in the briefing. “If unofficial results aren’t available until the next morning, it does not mean that something went wrong. It means that election officials are doing their jobs.”
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 2 – 3:40 p.m.
The owners of Salvatore’s Tomato Pies believe Election Day should be a national holiday.
Since that’s not the case, Patrick and Nichole DePula decided Salvatore’s would close Election Day, making it easier for the staff of roughly 110 employees to vote. To encourage even more civic engagement, Salvatore’s is paying its employees who use their time off to work at a polling site.
Patrick said six or seven employees have decided to do just that.
“Nichole and I were trying to think of something we could do to address the lack of voter participation in this country,” said Patrick. “In the western world, America has the worst record on voter turnout.”
Then there is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the availability of residents who typically staff polling sites.
Fifty-eight percent of poll workers for the 2018 general election were ages 61 and over, according to the Pew Research Center, with 27 percent over 70. Only 4% were in the 18-25 age group. In Wisconsin, 89% of deaths from COVID-19 have been people over age 60.
The staff at the four Salvatore’s locations are much younger, Patrick said.
“This is our way to give back a little bit and relieve some of the pressure at the polls,” he said.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 2 – 11:57 a.m.
Number of Outstanding Absentee Ballots ‘Down’ to 174,507
The Monday morning report from the Wisconsin Elections Commission shows 1,886,533 early votes have been cast through a combination of mailed or dropped-off absentee ballots and people who have voted absentee in person at their local election clerk’s office or other early voting sites.
With 2,061,040 total ballots mailed out, that leaves 174,507 outstanding ballots. An unknown number are in transit through the mail, with the rest still with voters at their homes. Those ballots, once completed, can be dropped off at municipal clerks offices or secure drop boxes, where available, but they should not be mailed as they are unlikely to arrive by the time polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Voters can track whether their absentee ballot has arrived at their local clerk’s office by visiting https://MyVote.wi.gov.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 2 – 11:45 a.m.
From Volleyball to Volunteering: UW Team Spending Day as Poll Workers
When Kelly Sheffield had to deliver the news that his Badgers volleyball team’s season had been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, a player asked what they could do to be helpful in the interim. Sheffield mentioned reports of a possible shortage of poll workers, and now these athletes will be performing public service on Election Day.
Not all the Badger players were registered to vote prior to this project. Now they are.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 1 – 11:45 a.m.
All Eyes on the 179,828 Outstanding Absentee Ballots
The Sunday morning report from the Wisconsin Elections Commission shows 1,873,403 early votes have been cast through a combination of mailed or dropped-off absentee ballots and people who have voted absentee in person at their local election clerk’s office or other early voting sites.
With 2,053,231 total ballots mailed out, that leaves 179,828 outstanding ballots. An unknown number are in transit through the mail, with the rest still with voters at their homes. Those ballots, once completed, can be dropped off at municipal clerks offices or secure drop boxes, where available, but they should not be mailed as they are unlikely to arrive by the 8 p.m. Tuesday deadline.
Voters can track whether their absentee ballot has arrived at their local clerk’s office by visiting https://MyVote.wi.gov.
Given that President Donald Trump won his upset victory over Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin by some 23,000 votes, expect an ongoing drumbeat of reminders to those 179,828 voters to make a plan to drop off their ballots or vote in person instead.
Last spring, the elections commission reported 79,054 absentee ballots that arrived after election day would not have counted without a six-day extension granted by a federal judge. The US Supreme Court struck down a judge’s extension for the November election after Republicans appealed.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 31 – 4:50 p.m.
That little “I Voted” sticker is a great excuse for a selfie, but it’s not supposed to get you any freebies or discounts.
Under advice given out by the Wisconsin Elections Commission, businesses that offer something in exchange for voting are technically breaking bribery laws.
“Every election, well-meaning businesses or groups offer discounts or free food and drinks to people who come into their establishment with an ‘I Voted’ sticker,” said Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin’s chief election official. “However, that is against the law.”
To ensure voting is done voluntarily and independently, no one can offer an item worth more than $1 to induce a person to vote, not vote, vote for a particular candidate, not vote for a particular candidate, or vote a specific way in a referendum, the law says.
However, it is allowable to provide free food and refreshments outside of polling places if certain rules are followed. The items have to be made available to everyone whether or not they voted, since rewarding voters alone would go against the rule about giving voters anything of value. Also, a table or a stand cannot impede voters’ access to the polls. And the biggest no-no is electioneering—giving something to lift spirits within 100 feet of a polling place entrance cannot include political discussion, signs, or paraphernalia.
Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin’s chief elections official, also draws a distinction between the voters-to-be and voters-who-voted. No one, including pollsters and news media, should approach someone standing in line to vote. But voters leaving the polling station can be approached for interviews, surveys, and petitions that don’t involve contests or referenda on the ballot so long as no disruption is caused; and voters have every right to say no and move on.
One notable exception to the election bribery law involves transportation. People are allowed to use their own vehicles to provide free rides to polling stations.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 31 – 11:30 a.m.
With Three Days to Go, Early Voting Reaches 1.8 Million
The Saturday morning report from the Wisconsin Elections Commission shows 1,853,054 early votes have been cast through a combination of mailed or dropped-off absentee ballots and people who have voted absentee in person at their local election clerk’s office or other early voting site. The early vote total is 62.2% of all Wisconsin votes cast in the 2016 presidential election.
Depending on how many absentee ballots are currently in transit through the mail, there could be more than 100,000 ballots still with voters at their homes. Because the US Postal Service advises that it can take up to one week for mail to be delivered, the Election Commission is instructing voters with absentee ballots to drop them off at their municipal clerk’s office as soon as possible, administrator Meagan Wolfe said in a statement.
“Some municipalities offer secure drop boxes, and voters can find locations by visiting https://MyVote.wi.gov, by using the absentee tracking feature and the Find My Local Absentee Options on their personal voter information page,” she said.
On Election Day most voters can still deliver their absentee ballots right to their normal polling place, Wolfe said, but it must arrive before polls close at 8 p.m. (Voters in 39 cities, villages or towns that count absentee ballots at a central location must instead return ballots to their clerk’s office or the central count location. Return instructions were included with each absentee ballot.) Wolfe reminds voters who plan to return absentee ballots to their clerk’s office or a municipal drop box on Election Day should do so as early as possible, because the ballot must be picked up and delivered to the polling place by 8 p.m.
Any voter who has not returned their absentee ballot is still eligible to vote in person on election day. Local elections officials will have a record at each polling place of whose absentee ballots have been cast and whose remain outstanding.
As for those 39 communities where absentee ballots are all taken to a central location, the Wisconsin Elections Commission produced this video that mentions the “central count” facilities as part of an explanation as to how ballots are counted and why the Election Night numbers have never been the final, certified totals.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30 – 1:30 p.m.
Early Voting Tops 1.7 Million, but Hundreds of Thousands of Voters with Outstanding Ballots Need to Make a Plan
The Wisconsin Elections Commission reported Friday morning that 1,961,773 absentee ballots have been sent out to voters so far, and 1,738,638 ballots have either been returned by mail, dropped off, or filled out as part of in-person early absentee voting.
In the past two days, clerks have mailed out 129,031 ballots which may arrive very close to Election Day or potentially afterward if mail service is slow in a particular community. Anyone still holding a ballot is strongly urged to return them to their clerks’ offices in person or use a proper absentee ballot drop box rather than mail them. Any absentee ballot that arrives after 8 p.m. on Tuesday will not be counted.
Voters also have the option of not filling out the ballot and instead voting in person on Nov. 3.
In-person early absentee voting ends today in many communities, but some are taking advantage of a window that lets such voting take place as late as Sunday. Check your local clerk’s office for hours and locations.
THURSDAY, OCT. 29 – 10:25 a.m.
State GOP Says Hackers Stole $2.3 Million
Andrew Hitt, chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, told the Associated Press on Thursday that hackers stole $2.3 million from the party’s political war chest last Thursday, less than two weeks before the presidential election. Hitt said the party noticed “suspicious activity” on Oct. 22 and notified the FBI the next day. Hitt said the FBI is now investigating the hack.
Special Agent Brett Banner, an FBI spokesman, told UpNorthNews he could not confirm nor deny an investigation, per agency policy.
The money was stolen when hackers altered invoices sent to the state GOP by four vendors, Hitt told the AP. The alterations reportedly rerouted payments for political supplies such as mailers and hats to the hackers.
The theft strikes a significant blow to the state GOP, which would have used the money in the final days of the presidential election to help prop up President Donald Trump, who has consistently trailed Democratic nominee Joe Biden in Wisconsin polls.
WEDNESDAY, OCT. 28 – 2:15 p.m.
Wisconsin Poll Numbers Hold Steady, and That’s Bad News for Trump
In the final Marquette University Law School poll conducted before next week’s presidential election, former Vice President Joe Biden continues to hold a 5% lead over President Donald Trump among Wisconsin respondents who said they are likely to vote.
Of likely voters surveyed, 48% said they supported Biden, 43% support Trump, 2% support Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen, and the remaining 8% said they did not know or did not want to answer. The survey has a margin of error of plus/minus 4.4% which means Biden’s lead is barely beyond a statistical tie. However, Biden’s 4-5% margin has been consistent across multiple Marquette polls during the year, showing a well-defined obstacle for Trump to overcome if he is to pull off another surprise win in a state he won by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016.
The survey polled 806 registered voters from Oct. 21-25, and 749 said they were likely to vote.
Among self-identified Republicans, 86% say they’ll vote for Trump while 7% say they’ll vote for Biden. Among Democratic respondents, 92% will vote for Biden while 3% say they’ll vote for the president. Self-identified Independents were far more likely to support neither nominee, with 36% saying they will vote for Biden, 28% for Trump, and 24% for Jorgensen.
The survey showed 41% of respondents have already voted, and 91% say they have already made up their minds who they’re voting for while 6% say they may yet change their mind over who to vote for next week.
Trump continues to get low marks for job performance and empathy. On his strongest issue, handling of the US economy, Trump still enjoys 51% approval, but that is down from 54% in May. Asked if Trump cares about “people like you,” 43% of those surveyed said yes while 54% said no. About Biden, 56% said he cares about people, 40% said he does not.
Trump’s overall job approval rating is 47% compared to 52% disapproval.
The president’s support continues to falter on how he has handled the coronavirus pandemic, with 40% saying they approve of what he has been doing and 58% disapproving. Trump’s rating has slipped from 44% in May.
When respondents were asked about using face coverings as a safeguard against catching and spreading the coronavirus, 64% said they always wear a mask when they are out in public, 20% said they wear a mask most of the time, 12% described their public mask use as “now and then,” and 3% said they never wear a mask in public.
With the US Supreme Court set to hear a case in less than two weeks that could decide the fate of healthcare reform, the survey asked about support for the Affordable Care Act and found 55% oppose the Court dismantling the law and 35% in favor of the justices scrapping the ACA.
Public regard for the Republican-led Wisconsin Legislature, which has not passed a bill in nearly 200 days, has plunged, with 50% now saying they disapprove of the job the Legislature is doing and only 36% approving. In January, the numbers were nearly reversed, with 52% job approval for the Legislature vs. 31% disapproval.
Gov. Tony Evers job approval slipped slightly from the last poll in early October, with 50% approval and 43% disapproval. Evers registered 52% approval earlier this month.
WEDNESDAY, OCT. 28 – 8:30 a.m.
Early Voting Now Exceeds 1.5 Million
The Wisconsin Elections Commission reported Wednesday morning that 1,832,742 absentee ballots have been sent out to voters so far, and 1,545,576 ballots have either been returned by mail, dropped off, or filled out as part of in-person early absentee voting.
Clerks urge voters who still have their absentee ballots to return them to their clerks’ offices in person or use a proper absentee ballot drop box rather than mailing them.
In-person early absentee voting can be done as late as Sunday in some communities, but others may choose to end availability after Friday. Check your local clerk’s office for hours and locations.
WEDNESDAY. OCT. 28 – 7:00 a.m.
Trump Tells West Salem Crowd, ‘We’re Rounding the Curve’ as Wisconsin Sets New Records for Cases and Deaths
President Donald Trump told a cheering crowd at a campaign stop in West Salem Tuesday evening that his administration has done an admirable job of containing the coronavirus pandemic, even as Wisconsin experienced a new one-day record 5,262 cases of the virus and 64 deaths.
During an hour-long speech filled with criticisms of his Democratic challenger for president, Joe Biden, Trump referred to the coronavirus as “the China plague” and denounced Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and others who have advocated for public health orders to slow the virus’ spread.
“Let’s get your governor to open it up,” Trump told a cheering audience gathered at the La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway Track in the city of nearly 5,000 just east of La Crosse in near-freezing temperatures. “We’re turning the corner. We’re rounding the curve. We will conquer this virus.”
In fact, Wisconsin’s economy has been open since mid-May, when the state Supreme Court overturned the safer-at-home order issued by Evers and the state Department of Health Services in March to curb the coronavirus. Positive cases of the virus have skyrocketed since then.
TUESDAY, OCT. 27 – 7:30 a.m.
Nearly 1.5 Million Wisconsinites Have Voted. Those with Ballots Urged to Use Drop-offs Now Instead of Mail.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission reported Tuesday morning that 1,771,503 absentee ballots have been sent out to voters so far, and 1,451,462 ballots have either been returned by mail, dropped off, or filled out as part of in-person early absentee voting.
Of the hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots not yet returned, elections officials have said Tuesday is the last day voters can mail their ballots back and comfortably expect that they will be received by clerks prior to the 8 p.m. deadline on Nov. 3. Clerks urge voters filling out ballots at home after Tuesday to return them to their clerks’ offices in person or use a proper absentee ballot drop box.
TUESDAY, OCT. 27 – 7:00 a.m.
US Supreme Court Sides With Wisconsin Republicans and Kills Extended Ballot Deadline
In one of its final acts as a group of eight, the justices on the US Supreme Court put on display the sharp differences they have on protecting or inhibiting voters’ access to the franchise, even in a pandemic, and struck down an extension of absentee voter deadlines in Wisconsin.
The court’s five conservatives dealt a final blow to a US District Court judge’s order that said Wisconsin voters’ absentee ballots could be postmarked on Election Day and still count if they arrived at local clerks’ offices up to six days later. The goal was to increase safety with home voting while not having an absentee vote wasted by Trump administration slowdowns forced on the US Postal Service.
Instead, the original rules remain in place and ballots must be at the clerk’s office or polling place by 8 p.m. next Tuesday, Nov. 3. Ballots mailed on Election Day will not arrive in time.
The court granted an extension in last spring’s election, and dissenting Justice Elena Kagan noted that the votes of about 80,000 people whose ballots were postmarked on April 3 would have been discarded were it not for the extension. She said the failure to grant an extension this time means “Wisconsin will throw out thousands of timely requested and timely cast mail ballots.” In all, the eight justices released an unusually large 35 pages of concurring or dissenting opinions.
MONDAY, OCT. 26 – 7:30 a.m.
Early Voting Reaches 1.3 Million
OCT. 21 – 9:00 a.m.
Early Voting Proves to Be Popular. Already 1 Million Votes Cast in Wisconsin.
The first day of early in-person voting attracted big crowds in some Wisconsin communities. The state elections commission office reports at least 79,774 in-person early voters cast ballots on Tuesday. The number is likely significantly higher as many municipalities have not yet reported their Tuesday figures.
Vehicles lined both sides of a street just outside of Eau Claire City Hall for a drive-up site that opened at 7 a.m. City Clerk Carrie Riepl reported 1,283 early voters by day’s end.
In Wausau, 563 people cast early ballots. Mayor Katie Rosenberg said city staff worked diligently to clean voting booths and provide germ-free pens to voters to protect against COVID-19.
In Green Bay, voters waited in line for two or three hours to cast their ballots, according to the city clerk’s office. In Appleton, city officials encouraged voters to request a mail-in ballot because of long early-voting lines there.
Likewise, election workers in Onalaska reported long lines of voters waiting to cast ballots, as was the case in Kenosha, where a group of people gathered before leaving the city and marching to Milwaukee to raise awareness about voting.
Reports from earlier in the day indicated voters stood in line for an hour or more at some locations in Milwaukee.
As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, Wisconsinites have already cast more than 1 million total votes by returning mailed absentee ballots to their local election clerks’ offices (1,027,585), and through in-person early voting (79,774).
Officials in Outagamie County say they caught a technical misprint on a ballot in time for it not to cause an issue for early in-person voting that starts Tuesday, but it will likely delay the counting of ballots already mailed to voters.
The misprint is a scratch that is described as no wider than a fingernail on a timing mark at the edge of the Outagamie County ballot, and it does not impact any contests, candidates or ballot referenda. At least 5,500 absentee ballots are affected, and possibly more, according to an Oct. 15 letter the county sent to the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
The county is expected to ask the state Supreme Court for permission to extend its deadline for counting absentee ballots, currently set for 4 p.m. on Nov. 4.
County Clerk Lori O’Bright said in a statement that the county’s testing protocols caught the misprint in time for the print vendor to replace all ballots that will be used for early, in-person voting starting Tuesday.
“Voters who received an absentee ballot with the misprint need not take any action – their votes will be counted,” she said. She expressed confidence in the integrity of the election, pointing out that the system worked as intended.
“This is a perfect example of why we have testing procedures in place,” she said.
Outagamie County Deputy Corporation Counsel Kyle Sargent reiterated that all ballots would be counted, saying there are safeguards in place to ensure accuracy, including having witnesses observe the process.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
He’s Not, and He Won’t
While there is still a lot we don’t know about the novel coronavirus, we have seen instances of reinfection. Accepting a kiss from President Trump would not be medically advised.
Nor is it likely. A self-professed germophobe, Trump speculated that his recent illness from COVID-19 may have been the fault of families who have lost loved ones while serving in times of military conflict. “They want to hug me, and they want to kiss me,” Trump said of meetings with families in mourning.
Read Jessica’s full report on Trump’s campaign visit to Janesville.
Polling Place Etiquette—Don’t Be That Guy
While voting is a constitutional right, that right comes with responsibilities.
So if you vote in-person on Nov. 3, there’s one core tenet to keep in mind, according to Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesman Reid Magney: “The main thing is don’t cause a disturbance. That’s sort of the overall principle of things.”
As for whether wearing your favorite candidate’s button or t-shirt constitutes a polling place no-no, read our story on Electioneering.
How to Get an Absentee Ballot, Fill It Out Correctly, and Return It
If we can do it, you can do it, too.
Why Aren’t There Many Competitive Races for the State Legislature
When voters handed power to Republicans in the 2010 election, it not only led to Scott Walker becoming governor, the Act 10 “bomb,” and billions of dollars less for public schools, it also flipped the switch on a new generation of gerrymandering.
The boundaries of legislative and congressional districts were taken in directions never seen before, and the result was the GOP holding a share of legislative seats well beyond the proportion of votes they got statewide in ensuing elections. Here are some related stories:
What Are the Key Legislative Races to Watch on Election Night?
Barring a national landslide, it’s unlikely that there will be major changes to the balance of power in the Assembly and Senate. But there are always a few races that get attention due to competitive racers, retirements that create open seats, and other factors.
So to get our election blog underway, let’s look at the top ten races in the Wisconsin Legislature we’re following.
To 2020 Readers: Welcome! To 2021 Readers: How’d We Do?
Here it is: our first post in what will become our Election Night blog for 2020. We’ll begin with some pre-election stories about the top races, the big issues, the basics of voting, and other items designed to set the scene for the fireworks that are sure to follow.
As we open this page, we are seeing tremendous early turnout from Wisconsin voters, and it warms our hearts. Our neighbors and friends may disagree on issues and candidates, but we are a state full of cheeseheads who still take democracy seriously. We are working hard at UpNorthNews to toot Wisconsin’s horn about our level of civic engagement. We want everyone to head into their polling place feeling the power and the worth of their vote.
We’re also extremely curious about what people will think when they look back on these first pre-election and Election Day entries. As we began preparing this page, we took a look back at several election night blogs from 2016 and we couldn’t help but feel the horror-movie sensation of wanting to shout, “Look out!” It was a late-night surprise ending to a day that had dawned with different expectations. Four years later, you are hard-pressed to find anyone making confident predictions about anything other than how unpredictable 2020 has already turned out to be.
What we can reasonably predict this time around is if Joe Biden has a healthy lead deep into election night, President Trump will make a lot of noise about the system being rigged against him, even though he almost never cracked 50% in a variety of approval polls during his term.
But if the night ends with the outcome still in doubt, we expect a battle royale over all those absentee ballots that are either in the process of being counted or still arriving, depending on deadlines.
Trump and his supporters will spare no effort in casting doubt on the validity of those legally-cast ballots, looking for judges who will throw a wrench into the process of counting and certification. And if that happens, we expect a weary nation to wonder if this will drag on past December 12, the calendar date in 2000 that marked the end of the lengthy Bush v. Gore battle over ballots in Florida.
Will we have a high tech equivalent of “hanging chads” in 2020?
Will Wisconsin again play a pivotal role in deciding the fate of the presidency?
Will this blog page have a neat and tidy end on the morning of Nov. 4?
Are you 2021 readers screaming, “Look out!”?
Or are you telling us our concerns turned out to be all for nothing?
The only way we’re going to answer those questions and get to the final entry of this blog is to start typing our way up, one story, observation, tip, and result at a time. Let’s do it!