Election integrity came into question regarding the presidential election in November as more people chose to vote absentee due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 brought a year of unknowns, a pattern that continued leading up to an election 69% of Americans consider the most important of their lifetime, according to a survey from YouGov.
Wisconsin sent out over 1.7 million absentee ballots for this year’s election so far, more than double the number from the 2016 election. The increase of absentee ballots could result in delayed election results, according to NBC reporting.
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Elections Research Center director Barry Burden said he believes voters will see results sooner than they expect —possibly within 24 hours, but voters should still prepare for a delay, he said.
“The public generally expects immediate results on election night and clear conclusions on election night, but it’s actually never been the case that election night results were final or official,” Burden said.
Burden said in Wisconsin, polling places cannot start processing and counting absentee ballots until the day of the election, as opposed to most other states. Wisconsin runs its elections locally in every city, town and village, making it a more manageable task, Burden said.
Historically, Wisconsin has not needed to wait to count absentee ballots, but with the uptick in mail-in voting, stricter rules apply, Burden said. Many states have had to shift their rules due to the pandemic.
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Burden said Wisconsin will be a particularly prominent battleground state in the election this year because its Republican demographics and Democrat demographics are largely even and virtually cancel each other out, making the race exceptionally close.
“It’s important to avoid jumping to conclusions based on preliminary results, which may not be correct,” Burden said.
According to Politico, President Trump made many claims regarding the legitimacy of mail-in voting, bringing election integrity into question. 46% of Americans are concerned about fairness and accuracy in this election, USA Today said.
Burden said he is not concerned about election integrity because there is no evidence of systematic fraud in the U.S. voting system and many states have used exclusively mail-in voting for decades. Officials track ballots carefully and each registered voter can submit only one ballot, he said.
Wisconsin Municipal Clerk Stacy Grunwald said she has no concerns regarding the integrity of the election this year because of the safeguards in place to ensure secure voting and results.
“We as municipal clerks are professional and we know how to handle the volume of absentee ballots that we’re facing; we know how to help our voters get through the process,” Grunwald said.
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In addition to training and oversight, there is a system in place at the state level allowing clerks to identify if someone is registered to vote, ineligible to vote, deceased, etc., Grunwald said.
Local polling places also increased their staff, safety measures and educational information for the public to protect its voters and the sanctity of the election, Grunwald said.
“The right to vote is fundamental and it’s important and every municipal clerk in the state is committed to making sure that right is respected and successfully met,” Grunwald said.
Attorney Matt Bogoshian, who will be an election observer in Wisconsin this year, said poll workers are taking unprecedented steps to implement safety and security protocols.
Bogoshian said his job as an election observer is to ensure a polling place runs smoothly, and its workers process ballots correctly and fairly. It is an additional safety measure for the election.
“We are the benchmark for free and fair elections around the world and we’re going to overcome this,” Bogoshian said.
Wisconsin Elections Commission Public Information Officer Reid Magney said voters should not lose trust in the results if they are delayed.
Magney said it is imperative for Wisconsinites to plan out when, where and how a voter will cast their ballot well in advance. The elections commission created videos mapping out the process if voters have questions about security or how to vote.
“It’s best to spend a little time and go to myvote.wi.gov, make sure you’re registered to vote, make sure you know where your polling place is and make a plan,” Magney said.
Wisconsin is one of eight states that will decide the 2020 election, according to Politico. In-person voting and registration for the Nov. 3 election is underway in Wisconsin.