The number of late absentee ballots that weren’t counted in last fall’s presidential election more than doubled from 2012 after lawmakers moved up their return deadline by three days, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission. The increase — from 498 in the 2012 presidential election to 1,208 last fall — isn’t surprising given the change in law, and the number of ballots that weren’t counted is still “extremely small” given the more than 813,000 absentee ballots and nearly 3 million total ballots cast, WEC spokesman Reid Magney said. The State Journal reported on the little-known change in law in October. As recently as the August primary the law allowed absentee ballots to be counted if they were postmarked by Election Day and received by the next Friday.
Starting with the November election mail-in ballots have to be received by a municipal clerk’s office no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day, which means they would have to be postmarked a few days earlier to arrive in time. The Wisconsin Elections Commission advised absentee voters to mail in their ballots a week before Election Day last fall.
The new law was enacted in March, but it wasn’t set to take effect until September. County clerks had requested the change, said Chad Zuleger, a spokesman for Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, chairwoman of the Assembly Committee on Elections and Campaigns.