By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Editor’s note: This is an ongoing article that will be updated throughout the day.
8 p.m. update
It’s now past 8 p.m. on Election Day and polls across the state are now closed. Mayor Tom Barrett and Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg of the Milwaukee Election Commission provided the night’s last scheduled update regarding absentee ballots being counted at Central Count, 501 W. Michigan Ave.
“The 2020 presidential election polling is completed in Wisconsin,” Barrett said, who thanked Woodall-Vogg and volunteers for their hard work. “It was a beautiful day and lots of people got out and voted.”
So far, 103,000 absentee ballots have been processed. Barrett and Woodall-Vogg estimated that absentee ballot processing will be completed by 4 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 4. Under state law, Central Count must have a continuous count.
Woodall-Vogg said everything has been operating smoothly. She added that there have been no valid challenges. Under state law, a ballot can be challenged by an election inspector if they have knowledge that the person has already voted or that they do not meet the qualifications.
Milwaukee County is responsible for announcing election results.
The machines being used at Central Count are encrypted, which means they show a ballot has been counted but do not show the results. Once the final ballot has been counted, Woodall-Vogg will be escorted by police to the Milwaukee County Election Commission, which will report the final result.
3 p.m. update
After several hours, Mayor Tom Barrett and Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg of the Milwaukee Election Commission provided an update on Central Count. As of noon, 30,000 absentee ballots have been counted.
Woodall-Vogg explained that it takes a bit to associate voter numbers with the absentee ballots, which is why there’s been a bit of a delay. However, all the machines continue to work well, she said.
“Today started smoothly and it is continuing to run smoothly,” Barrett said.
Barrett noted he was pleased to see the number of citizens who have volunteered as poll workers.
“The citizens have really stepped forward to help us with our democracy,” he said.
The second shift recently took over, and some of the volunteers from the first shift have stayed to help, Woodall-Vogg said.
There remain between 15,000 to 20,000 outstanding absentee ballots, Woodall-Vogg said, adding that about 3,000 to 4,000 have been collected today.
Barrett and Woodall-Vogg reminded Milwaukeeans that it’s not too late to return an absentee ballot to the drop box or to vote in-person.
Polls will remain open till 8 p.m. and the drop boxes till 7:30 p.m.
Barrett noted that are no little to no lines at any of the city’s polling location. There are no lines and it’s a beautiful day, he said.
“There’s still time to have your voice heard in our democracy,” Barrett concluded.
10 a.m. update
The day has finally arrived. It’s Election Day, which means everyone who hasn’t already voted, today is the day to do so. It also means, that all the absentee ballots that have been and are being collected are being counted today.
In Wisconsin, law dictates that absentee ballots can’t be counted until Election Day. This year, the City of Milwaukee saw an unprecedented number of absentee ballot requests and early voters with over 165,000.
Earlier today, Mayor Tom Barrett and Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg of the Milwaukee Election Commission held the first of three press conferences regarding how things are going at Central Count.
“This is the day we’ve been waiting for, Nov. 3,” Barrett said. “It’s been a long haul.”
The key question is ‘how are things going?’ Barrett said.
“The best way for us to summarize it is no news is good news,” he said. “We want Election Day news to be the results of the election as to who won and who loss, not how the process went.”
Barrett urged that everyone who hasn’t voted to do so. All 173 polling sites are open, he said. To find your polling place go to myvote.wi.gov.
“I can’t stress how important it is for all Milwaukeeans to vote,” he said. “It is no exaggeration to say every vote counts.”
Woodall-Vogg said voters should look up their polling place and check their registration status. It’s always good to double check, she said. If someone has moved, they must have lived in the new residence for at least 28 days and bring proof of residence to register.
“Once you have your polling place in mind, your photo ID and if needed your proof of address it’s time to go the polls,” she said. “They’re open till 8 p.m. tonight.”
Please wear a mask and practice social distancing while waiting in lines, she said. The polling sites will remain open until everybody has had a chance to vote assuming people are in line by 8 p.m.
Woodall-Vogg continued, “If you are one of the 15 to 20 thousand people that have not returned your absentee ballot it is not too late to return your ballet today.”
Those who have requested an absentee ballot can return their ballot to one of the 15 drop boxes by 7:30 p.m. tonight or to the Central Count located at 501 W. Michigan Ave. by 8 p.m. It must have a witness signature.
She said there has been a phenomenal turnout in terms of poll workers. Central Count has three shifts scheduled throughout the day with about 400 workers scheduled per shift. There are 12 machines located at Central Count, which can process 1,500 to 2,000 ballots an hour.
As Election Day continues, Barrett and Woodall-Vogg will continue to provide updates. In the meantime, Milwaukeeans are reminded to vote.