Following a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling to halt ballot dissemination, city clerk offices across the state are struggling to meet Thursday’s deadline to mail out thousands of absentee ballots.

The rush to send out absentee ballots comes after the Wisconsin Supreme Court placed a suspension on the mailing of absentee ballots Sept. 10 for the court to consider Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins’ lawsuit to get on the state’s presidential election ballot.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected Hawkins’ appeal and deemed it unnecessary to reprint ballots, deciding it was too late. This decision, though, could impact whether ballots will be sent out on time.

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Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl reported on the status of the office Wednesday. Witzel-Behl said they have been staffing people 12 hours a day to focus on mailing out all the ballots.

Katie Hardie

Witzel-Behl said the Dane County post office extended their hours for the clerk’s office specifically for mailing these ballots. The city clerk’s office sent out 25,000 ballots Tuesday, and Witzel-Behl expected they would top that number Wednesday.

Witzel-Behl said there is no guarantee the deadline set by the state will be met, but the staff is trying their hardest.

“We are trying our very best to get them out by Thursday,” Witzel-Behl said.

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Stresses relating to COVID-19 have also contributed to the rush in the clerk offices. Due to many of the COVID-19 related risks associated with voting in-person, mail-in ballots are becoming increasingly necessary and commonly used, according to statistics from Pew Research Center and the Wisconsin State Journal.

Witzel-Behl said the circumstances of COVID-19 impacted the rush to send out absentee ballots and the sheer amount of absentee ballots requested. The numbers of requested ballots have increased more than eight-fold compared to the November 2016 election.

Witzel-Behl said that four years ago. their office mailed out 9,000 absentee ballots. This year, the office has received requests for more than 80,000 ballots, and over one million absentee ballots were requested in the state of Wisconsin.