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Poll workers sort out early and absentee ballots at the Kenosha Municipal building on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis. (AP) Poll workers sort out early and absentee ballots at the Kenosha Municipal building on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis. (AP)

Poll workers sort out early and absentee ballots at the Kenosha Municipal building on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis. (AP)

By D.L. Davis November 13, 2020

Wisconsin Democrats jump the gun with claim that absentee ballot rejections are down

If Your Time is short

  • In April 2020, 23,196 absentee ballots were rejected, 1.8% of total ballots. That's down from 2.5% in April 2016.

  • But we don't know yet how many ballots were rejected Nov. 3, and won't know until mid-December.

As Democrats celebrate the unofficial victory of President-elect Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 presidential election, claims of subterfuge, trickery and outright fraud involving absentee ballots continue to rain down. 

Thus far, there has been no evidence of widespread fraud presented, but Wisconsin lawmakers plan to issue their first subpoenas in years as part of an investigation into the election here.  

Ben Wikler, Chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, rejected the fraud allegations in a Nov. 8 appearance on WISN-TV’s UpFront program. But he added another detail that caught our eye.

"Across the state the rejection rate for ballots went way down because so much work and so much care was taken both by voters themselves and clerks around the state," Wikler said.

Is his claim that the rejection rate for ballots is down correct? Let’s take a look.

The claim

When asked to back up the claim, Courtney Beyer, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Democratic Party of Wisconsin, cited a Oct. 28, 2020, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article that reported 23,196 absentee ballots were rejected in the April 2020 election, about 1.8% of total ballots. Democrats believe there are signs it would be much lower for the November election.

"At least 23,000 ballots were rejected in April," Beyer said in an email.  "We don’t know exactly how many absentee ballots were rejected from this election (and won’t for a while), but preliminary counts had it around 1,000. Significantly less."

Beyer also cited a Nov. 3  tweet from WisPolitics.com journalist Pat Poblete, who said "Administrator Meagan Wolfe says as of this afternoon, 970 absentee ballots have been returned with a deficiency that would lead to them being rejected."

But Wikler’s claim was made while discussing the Nov. 3 election. Viewers would have had no reason to believe he was referencing data from the April primary. So let’s review what we know about absentee rejection Nov. 3.

No data yet for Nov. 3 election

Elections Commission public information officer Reid Magney said the jury is still out on the absentee rejection count.

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"We believe the numbers will be low, but we won’t know the rejection rate for several weeks," he said. "Clerks have 45 days (after the election) to enter that data into the statewide voter database."

Magney said the 970 absentee ballots referenced as flagged "was a preliminary, pre-election figure - ballots marked for rejection if the voters didn't fix problems." In other words, it doesn’t give any general insight on how often ballots were rejected overall.

However, there is an indication that the number of rejected absentee ballots could drop. The Oct. 28 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article points out that in April 2016, 5,860 absentee ballots were rejected — 2.5% of the total absentee ballots.

And in April 2020, 23,196  absentee ballots were rejected. It’s a much higher raw number, but because so many more people used absentee ballots it was actually a smaller portion of total ballots — 1.8%.

Our ruling

Wikler said, "Across the state the rejection rate for ballots went way down." 

According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, it’s too early to know how many ballots were rejected. 

It may very well be true that the absentee ballot rejection rate was lower than past elections, but for now, the commission says there is no data to confirm that. By looking at the 2016 rejected ballot rate compared with the improved April 2020 rate, there is a possibility the rejection will also be down for November 2020, but there is no data yet to confirm that.

Even Democrats subsequently acknowledged, "We don’t know exactly how many absentee ballots were rejected from this election (and won’t for a while)."

For a statement that contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, our rating is Mostly False. 

 

Our Sources

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Ballot clerks asked for help. Lawmakers didn’t act. Disinformation followed," Nov. 10, 2020. 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "More than 23K absentee ballots were rejected in April; election officials expect smaller percentage to have problems in November,"Oct. 28, 2020.

PolitiFact, "Fact-checking a conspiracy theory about ballot counting in battleground states," Nov. 4, 2020.

WISN "UpFront," Nov. 8, 2020.

Email, Courtney Beyer, spokeswoman Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Nov. 11, 2020

Email, Reid Magney, Wisconsin Elections Commission, Nov. 10, 2020

Twitter, WisPolitics.com Pat Poblete, Nov. 3, 2020

Wisconsin Elections Commission "Correcting misinformation about Wisconsin’s election," Nov. 10, 2020.

 

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More by D.L. Davis

Wisconsin Democrats jump the gun with claim that absentee ballot rejections are down

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