La Crosse County election officials keeping more than 42,000 absentee ballots secure

LA CROSSE COUNTY, Wis. (WKBT)– More than 42,000 La Crosse County voters cast absentee ballots out of 68,032 total votes cast this election cycle, according to the county clerk’s office. There are a number of steps that may go unnoticed by voters to make sure these ballots are secured and accounted for before, during and after Election Day.

If you turned you ballot into a drop box like the one outside Onalaska’s City Hall, election officials were watching closely from the moment it went in.

“We have cameras on our drop boxes and the drop boxes are cleared out several times a day,” said JoAnn Marcon, Onalaska’s city clerk.

They’re then scanned, so voters can see that their ballot was recieved on My Vote Wisconsin. Once they check it for the voter’s signature, witness address and signature, it can be secured until closer to Election Day.

“They are stored in our vault in the city of Onalaska,” JoAnn Marcon said.

Officials will go through them to number them all. The amount of absentee ballots requested in Onalaska was about double compared to last presidential election.

“We split it up between a bunch of people, but our ending total was about 8,000,” said McKenzie Marcon, a poll worker in Onalaska.

Then they put those numbers to the names in the poll books.

“So obviously that takes some time,” McKenzie Marcon said.

But it means they’re ready to go come Election Day at their polling locations. Onalaska had more poll workers helping on Election Day compared to previous cycles in anticipation of a higher turn out, especially with absentee ballots.

“7 a.m. is the first time an absentee ballot is ever opened,” JoAnn Marcon said.

Wisconsin does not allow officials to process them before Election Day.

“[We] open them up then we put them through and hopefully get the number we’re supposed to get,” McKenzie Marcon said.

Once they’re all fed through the machine, the ballots and envelopes are put into bags for transport to the county clerk’s office.

“And the county clerk keeps all the materials going forward,” JoAnn Marcon said.

To get the totals for the night, the clerk needs the tape printed out from each ballot box along with the box’s memory card. Some municipalities, like La Crosse, will secure their ballots on their own.

“When they come here, those [absentee] ballots are secured just with the Election Day ballots. They’re secured in our office until the period of a recount is done,” said La Crosse County Clerk Ginny Dankmeyer.

After that time has passed, Dankmeyer said the ballots and envelopes go to another secure location to be held for 22 months that’s required.

While La Crosse County did report its results around 12:30 a.m., these are technically unofficial results. The county clerk’s office still has to do its canvass next Monday to ensure everything is correct before it can be certified.  It then goes to the state election’s commission to do its own canvass of the entire state.