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Wisconsin's Clerks Will Still Have to Wait Until Election Day to Process Absentee Ballots

Wednesday, February 21st, 2024 -- 2:00 PM

(Hope Kirwan, Wisconsin Public Radio) Local clerks may still have to wait until Election Day to begin processing absentee ballots in Wisconsin, despite a bipartisan effort to allow for early canvassing.

According to Hope Kirwan with the Wisconsin PUblic Radio, the state Assembly passed legislation in November that would allow election workers to begin processing absentee ballots the day before an election.

But in an interview that aired Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, told WISN-TV that the bill is likely dead, saying he doubts the legislation will make it out of a Senate committee. “I think a couple members of the committee have problems with the bill,” LeMaheiu said.

The Republican-authored bill would allow municipalities to begin canvassing absentee ballots the day before an election, and require it in communities that use a central location for counting absentee ballots, like Milwaukee.

Election workers would not be allowed to tally the ballots during early canvassing. The change has been proposed by both Democrats and Republicans for years. Large cities often take longer to process the large quantity of absentee ballots they receive, sometimes leading to late-night swings in unofficial election results.

That fueled former President Donald Trump’s false claims of vote “dumping” in 2020, when the final tally of votes in Democratic cities like Milwaukee weren’t known until the middle of the night.

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