Voters Head to Polls on Election Day

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Citizens lined up outside St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Middleton on Nov. 3 to cast their votes in the 2020 Presidential Election. Middleton is expected to hit at least 90 percent voter turnout this year.

WISCONSIN–Wisconsin had 2,408 active polling places on November 3, following extended periods of both mail-in voting and in-person absentee voting at local municipal buildings.

On Wednesday morning, the presidential race had not yet been determined in part due to the high number of absentee ballots cast in the election. At press time Democratic candidate Joe Biden was leading Pres. Donald Trump with 238 electoral votes to Trump’s 213. Several key battleground states, including Wisconsin had not finished their count. In Dane County, Biden won with 75.5 percent of the vote to Trump’s 22.9 percent. In both the country and county, Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian candidate received 1.1 percent of votes.

In other races, Democrat and incumbent Mark Pocan handily beat Republican opponent Peter Theron in the 2nd District race for US House of Representatives. Pocan received 70 percent of the vote while Theron received 30 percent. County tallies were 75. 3 percent for Pocan and 24.6 percent going to Theron.

Incumbent and Democrat Dianne Hesselbein easily defeated Victoria Fueger in the State Assembly District 79 Race. Hesselbein received 67 percent of the vote and Fueger came in at 33 percent.

Voting is not the end of the process. There are three steps to Wisconsin’s certification process. The first step starts once all the ballots have been fed into the voting equipment and the polls are officially closed. Then, the poll workers convene what is known as the board of local canvassers. (This activity is a public meeting and the media and public are welcome to attend and record what happens.) The voting equipment is switched into reporting mode and a results tape is printed, which is then read aloud, announcing the vote totals for that polling place. (Members of the public and the media may also view, copy or photograph the results tapes from voting equipment.) The poll workers also take care of administrative work, including sealing ballot bags and filling out chain-of-custody reports required before taking everything to the municipal clerk.

Municipal clerks provide unofficial results to their county clerks, who post them to the county’s website. In some locations, unofficial results are transmitted from the polling place to the county clerk’s office by the voting equipment. This is generally done via an encrypted cellular telephone transmission.

Under a recently enacted law, municipal clerks must report unofficial results to the county clerk within two hours of the results being tabulated, and county clerks must post the results within two hours of receiving them from the municipal clerk. Usually this process takes much less time.

Municipal clerks have a statutory deadline of 4 p.m. the Wednesday after the election to deliver election materials to the county clerk. However, there is no state law that specifically says that ballots cannot be counted after a certain date or time.

In addition, municipalities are required to post the number of provisional ballots on the internet on Election Night. Provisional ballots are issued to voters who do not have an acceptable ID on Election Day; these numbers are usually very small. Even more rarely, voters registering on Election Day who cannot provide the number on their driver license or state ID (if they have one) would also receive a provisional ballot.

The second step of the certification process is at the county level. Counties must convene their boards of canvassers by 9 a.m. on Nov. 10 to begin certifying official results. The county board of canvassers is made up of the county clerk and two other people. County clerks are elected on a partisan basis, so one of the other two members must be from the opposite party of the county clerk. The deadline for counties to provide certified results to the Wisconsin Elections Commission is Nov. 17.

In the third step of the certification process, the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) staff receive results from the counties, recheck all the counties’ numbers and combine them to arrive at totals for legislative, congressional and statewide races. The statutory deadline for the Chair of the WEC to certify statewide results is Dec. 1.

After certification by the Chair of the WEC, the official results are provided to the Governor’s Office, which prepares a “certificate of ascertainment” for president, vice president and presidential electors for the election. The certificate lists each presidential and vice-presidential candidate, their electors, and the total number of votes each received. This certificate is signed by the Governor who also affixes the Great Seal of the State of Wisconsin to the certificate. It is then sent to the US General Services Administrator. This is done on or before the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, which is Dec. 14 this year. In Wisconsin, the state legislature plays no role in certifying or deciding which slate of electors vote in the Electoral College.

At noon that same day, electors for president and vice president meet at the state capitol. At that meeting, the electors vote for president and vice president. They must vote for the candidates of the party that nominated them.


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