Thursday, April 9, two days after the conclusion of Wisconsin’s 2020 Primary election, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, and Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, sent a letter in complaint to the Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service following reports from the day before claiming hundreds of absentee ballots failed to be delivered to those who requested them. In an all-but-predicted event without an answer, this was hopefully the last leg of the disenfranchisement campaign resulting from weeks of bad politics.
Fox Point Village Hall received 100-150 ballots a day that failed to get to their destination in the week prior to election day and 20-50 ballots a day the week before. The village even reported on April 7, election day, they received 175 absentee ballots that failed to be delivered. These ballots had no trace of a reason for being returned, not even a return-to-sender stamp.
Scott Botcher, Administrator at Fox Point Village, said postal workers returned undelivered absentee ballots to the village as early as three weeks before Tuesday’s election with no explanation other than that it might have been a sorting problem in downtown Milwaukee’s post office.
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Fox Point wasn’t alone in this curious event. Both Appleton and Oshkosh reported an unknown number of absentee ballots were never received by voters, all three towns belonging to counties who leaned left in the race for the seat at the State Supreme Court.
This was not a report of individuals who did not receive their ballots on time, nor is it a report of the dramatic series of events regarding Supreme Court decisions, actions by Gov. Tony Evers and lack of action by the legislature leading to varying levels of uncertainty which caused people to request ballots at the last possible minute. This is actually a report of people who requested ballots as far back as March 22 and 23 — two full weeks ahead of election day.
These two days were particularly bad and had a return rate of under 25% of absentees that were requested, a stark contrast to the 65% of expected returns in Milwaukee County.
A website created by A Better Wisconsin Together reported more than 2,000 missing ballots.
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This number, added to the thousands who stayed home on April 7 to avoid the likelihood of getting infected by going to the polls and those who either did not request an absentee in time or received it after the postmark deadline of election day, was all left disenfranchised by the Wisconsin State Government’s failure to professionally and safely address the issue of hosting the primary election amid a once-in-a-century pandemic. So, while undelivered ballots to those who requested them were unforeseen, the news was not surprising.
It is in the face of this chaos and neglect of democracy that Baldwin is going further than just sending a letter to the USPS seeking justice. She is also asking her supporters to sign a petition demanding the November Presidential election be entirely vote-by-mail.
Planning out vote-by-mail for November accomplishes a number of things Wisconsin’s primary election did not, including the ability to foresee the potential issues of voting during a pandemic, ensuring constituents do not spread or contract the disease, caring about the health and safety of voters by erring on the side of caution, caring about voter suppression, actively trying to minimize the administrative burden of voting and making a professional and informed decision with the leadership and earnestness necessary of elected officials.
Please, Wisconsinites, contact your state officials and Sen. Ron Johnson to persuade their offices to back Baldwin’s push for vote-by-mail in November. Remember how you felt when you were stuck at home not exercising your right to vote, at the polls risking your life to exercise your right to vote or betrayed by the inconsistency of your local USPS office. Getting ahead of this election and establishing a nation-wide vote-by-mail system now will prevent health risks in November and give legislators and bureaucrats enough time to make sure ballots aren’t lost.
You would be surprised how infrequently your state representatives get calls. Log on to https://legis.wisconsin.gov/ and type in your Wisconsin address to find the numbers of your officials and give them a call. Here is a link taking you to Sen. Ron Johnson’s Senate page to call each of his four offices― if he is with Baldwin in calling for an investigation into the USPS, he must be with her in voting-by-mail in November.
They will listen to people like you.
Kaitlin Kons ([email protected]) is a sophomore studying political science and public policy.