Wisconsin Election Results: How Many Outstanding Ballots Are There?

wisconsin outstanding ballots

Getty A previous election in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s top election official says almost all outstanding votes have now been counted in Wisconsin in the 2020 election except for provisional ballots and a few hundred votes in a single small community, but official results won’t be known until a canvassing process is completed.

That’s a process in which local clerks double check their vote counts.

That news comes as President Donald Trump’s campaign says he will request a recount in Wisconsin. “There have been reports of irregularities in several Wisconsin counties which raise serious doubts about the validity of the results. The President is well within the threshold to request a recount and we will immediately do so,” Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement, according to The Hill.

The comments came from Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin’s chief election official, in a virtual news conference, which you can see below. “Every single one of those jurisdictions has submitted their unofficial results, except for one tiny township of less than 300 voters,” she said. “We have no reason to believe that there are any other ballots that have not yet been counted and included in those official totals.”

Which community still hasn’t counted its ballots? The Town of Willow in Richland County has about 300 votes left to count, she said. In addition, there are still an unknown number of provisional ballots out there, but she didn’t have a number for them.

Wolfe said those are provisional ballots are ballots where people didn’t have a photo ID but are still given a chance to cast the ballot. It’s counted if they bring in a valid photo ID by 4 p.m. on Friday. “Historically, very few are cast,” she said. She said past general elections saw fewer than 1,000, but officials don’t have the final number for this election. “We’re not seeing anything to indicate that we will have more provisionals than usual,” she said,

Her comments came as the unofficial tally for Wisconsin showed Democrat Joe Biden with 1,630,431 votes, and Republican Donald Trump with 1,609,898 votes. That’s 49.4% for Biden and 48.8% for Trump, a difference of .6%.

Here’s what you need to know:


The Results Are Still Unofficial

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Counties post unofficial results on their websites on election day.

According to a press release from Wolfe, “Wisconsin has never had a statewide system for reporting unofficial results on Election Night, and there is no central official website where results will be reported.”

Wolfe said the canvassing process will “doublecheck” the unofficial results already reported. The official results and winner will be announced at a December 1 meeting. The results being reported right now are numbers based on news gathering by the Associated Press and other news organizations, who get them from the county clerks around the state and aggregate them.

Wolfe said she didn’t want to respond to President Donald Trump’s claims of fraud.

“Elections are such a deliberate, meticulous process… in a public setting,” she said in the news conference. “There’s no opportunity to add additional votes to the tally.” She said it was “insulting to say to our election officials” to say that the election was “anything but a success.”

Officials stressed again that the results people are seeing out of Wisconsin are from the news media, not official results from the Election Commission.

“Most of the unofficial results the public sees on Election Night and in the following days come from the Associated Press newswire service,” Wolfe said in the news release.

“For many decades, the AP has collected unofficial results from county clerks’ offices and distributed totals to its member newspapers and radio and TV stations. In recent years, other news organizations have also begun collecting and reporting unofficial Wisconsin results. Election night declarations of victory are based on predictions and incomplete results. Winners are not official until the results are certified, which by Wisconsin state law happens on December 1,” the release said.


Wisconsin Doesn’t Have Outstanding Mail-in Ballots; How the Recount Process Works

GettyA man casts his ballot in a Democratic presidential primary election at the Journey Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on April 7, 2020.

Wisconsin is not a state that allows ballots to be counted if they arrive after election day. According to Wolfe, mail-in ballots had to be in by November 3. All ballots had to be received by 8 p.m. November 3 to be counted or a voter had to be in line by 8 p.m. There are no late returns allowed in the state of Wisconsin, she said.

“I am confident that every single valid ballot was counted in Wisconsin,” said Wolfe. “There were some really trying circumstances this year. I think we ran an excellent election.”

Wolfe said Wisconsin, in 2016, was the only state to complete a presidential recount. Recounts in Wisconsin are conducted at the county level; the state has 72 counties.

According to Wolfe, there is a statutory recount process that holds that the aggrieved party seeking the recount has to be one of the top two votegetters. They can seek a recount if the margin of victory is within 1%. According to Wolfe, the candidate bears the cost if the margin is between .26 and 1 percent. The state pays the cost for any recount if the margin of victory is .25 or less.

There is no automatic recount in the State of Wisconsin.

According to Reid Magney, spokesman for the Wisconsin Election Commission, candidates have three days to make a request for a recount after they get the last county’s official results in; he didn’t provide that date.

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