In a press briefing Thursday, Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe said thousands of people joined the tide of voters opting for mail-in absentee ballots but haven’t returned them yet. Wolfe says such voters have several options, but this late in the game, they shouldn’t return the ballots by mail.
"Now that we’re less than seven days before the election, really, voters should be considering sending their ballots back either by delivering them in person to their clerk’s office, dropping them off in a drop box or delivering those ballots to the polls on Election Day," Wolfe says.
If you go with the drop box option, Wolfe says it’s important to check your jurisdiction’s pick up schedule. For example, "I know in some communities you might not be able to use a drop box on Election Day itself, you’ll have to go to the polls or the clerk’s office to drop off those ballots," Wolfe says.
It's important to note that municipalities that use central count, like Milwaukee, do not allow voters to drop off absentee ballots at the polls on Election Day.
Voters heading to a polling station on Election Day might find a member of the Wisconsin National Guard among the workers. Gov. Tony Evers announced Thursday that approximately 400 guardsmen will be available if needed to staff the polls.
Wolfe says while municipalities have done well recruiting poll workers, the Guard will provide a welcome back up.
"Let’s say on Monday or on Tuesday morning, a clerk calls and says, ‘I was expecting three poll workers, but only two people showed up. We need help.’ We’d be able to call up those Guards members in their area, in their county to come serve in that emergency capacity," Wolfe says.
Guard members helping out will wear civilian clothing.
Voters might also find observers at the polls. They’re permitted, but they must sign in, wear a badge and Wolfe says "heed to the guidance" of that particular polling station.
"We’ve heard of places that have a rotating schedule so that they can make sure that they’re getting fair access to everybody that might be looking to observe as part of that process. But each polling station is going to establish where those observers can observe from and how many can be allowed in at any given time," she says.
Wolfe has been holding briefings for weeks, keeping the press in the loop as this most unusual of election cycles unfolds.
Of course, the question every reporter wants answered is how soon can they report the outcome of one of the key swing states in this presidential election. Wolfe, usually the epitome of measured response, says the process cannot be rushed.
"Our number one job is to make sure we have an accurate election, an accurate tally. So they’re not going to speed up the process to try to meet some unofficial deadline," Wolfe says. "Those election night results, those declarations made by campaigns and candidates and the media, those are always unofficial predictions, those are not official results of an election."