‘We did the best we could’: Madison election officials facing long week ahead as absentee ballots continue to come in

The election is technically over in Wisconsin, but ballots are still coming in and results won’t be published until next week.

Jim Verbick, the deputy clerk for the city of Madison, said his office isn’t close to done, and staff is looking at a busy week ahead.

“I don’t have a timeline for when we’ll be caught up,” Verbick said. “I mean this election is unprecedented. There’s nothing really to compare it to, and so I feel we did the best we could under the circumstances that we had.”

Madison was able to keep things moving on Election Day with no major issues reported at the dozens of sites it was able to keep.

According to the clerk, turnout was still low compared to the last time the city weighed in on a presidential candidate. In April 2016, the city had about 66 percent turnout, while on Tuesday it was around 50 percent. Verbick said that number could change as more absentee ballots roll in, but he’s not holding his breath.

“I would be shocked if it went up even 5 percent,” he said.

He said there were some issues getting ballots out and having them returned with all necessary info, including people that submitted absentee ballots without a witness signature when it was briefly legal to do so.

“As of now it sounds like those votes won’t be counted which is very unfortunate because those voters had complied with the rules that were valid at the time they submitted their ballot, and then it got changed on them,” Verbick said. “Unfortunately it sounds like their vote will be quite disenfranchised because of this.”

State law doesn’t leave any room to get those votes counted another way, but in a call with reporters Wednesday, state elections commission administrator Meagan Wolfe said the state will still keep track of the numbers on ballots cast and disqualified.

“Once all the canvasses have been complete and once they do the data entry, we will know how many ballots were potentially impacted by some of those changes,” Wolfe said.

Voting aside, the state Department of Health Services secretary said the state is waiting to see if there is a bump in cases of COVID-19 following in-person voting. She said if there is, that could factor into a potential extension of the safer at home order.