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Milwaukee County Election Official Says 'Be Patient' When It Comes To Counting Absentee Ballots

Scott Olson
Getty Images
Voters have numerous options for returning absentee ballots other than by mail, including at secure drop boxes or their municipal clerk's office.

As of Tuesday, about 235,000 people had returned absentee ballots in Milwaukee County, either by voting early at the polls, mailing them in or dropping them off. That’s about four times the number returned at this time in the 2016 presidential race.

Some municipalities will count the absentee ballots at the polls. Others, like the city of Milwaukee, will count them at a central location called “central count.” The ballots then get run through vote tabulators — either at central count or at polling places.

When can we expect the unofficial results?

“At this point, because of central count and because of the number of ballots, of absentee ballots that have been received, we are anticipating finishing this process between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.,” Milwaukee County Elections Director Julietta Henry says.

"Be patient because we want to make sure every vote is counted and is counted accurately. We'll be here 'til it's done."
WUWM's Maayan Silver talks with Julietta Henry, Milwaukee County elections director, on Lake Effect.

With over 230,000 ballots so far, it is expected to take until the early hours of Nov. 4 because counting those ballots can’t begin until 7 a.m. on Nov. 3.

“[Central count] has 13 high-speed voting equipments that will allow them to process between 1,000 and 2,000 ballots per hour once they are opened,” she says.

Henry reiterates that the current time is just a projection, as more ballots are coming in every day.

“If it takes longer than that, we just ask that you be patient because we want to make sure every vote is counted and is counted accurately,” she says. “We’ll be here 'til it’s done.”

>>If There's No Election Night Winner, Don't Panic

Watching election results will be different this year because a count may say that 100% of voting precincts have reported, but that does not mean that central count has reported any information. Until the Wisconsin Elections website has announced the central count ballot totals, 100% of the ballots will not be reported.  

“Once they have sent those ballots to our office via modem, we will then check that box. It will now say city of Milwaukee is 100% done,” says Henry.

Maayan is a WUWM news reporter.