Thousands of absentee ballots returned in La Crosse County, some with common errors

Election officials working with voters to correct the errors so the ballots can be counted on Election Day

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)– Absentee ballots are pouring back in, just about two weeks after they were starting to be sent to voters. The La Crosse County Clerk’s Office said about a quarter of the requested absentee ballots have already been returned.

Amy McKnight voted absentee earlier this year and signed up to do it again for the general election.

“It’s really easy. They just came to our house, we can fill them in [and] if we have questions we can look something up,” said McKnight, who returned her ballot to the dropbox outside La Crosse City Hall Wednesday.

She’s one of around 17,000 La Crosse County voters who requested an absentee ballot for the November election. But County Clerk Ginny Dankmeyer thinks that number could reach about 20,000.

“We usually see higher absentee voting at the bigger elections, but nothing like we’re seeing right now,” Dankmeyer said.

She estimates it’s about twice as many, if not more, than usual. And some, like McKnight, were ready to vote.

“Last night we watched the debate and sat down and said, ‘Oh my god, let’s fill in our ballots and drop them off,'” McKnight said.

Officials in Wisconsin are not allowed to start counting the actual votes until Nov. 3. However, they can look at any potential issues that might otherwise disqualify a ballot.

“Because of the high volume of absentee, and the amount of time it’s going to take on election day to process them, the clerks are doing everything they can ahead of time,” Dankmeyer said.

So far, some are missing a voter signature, a witness signature or the witness’s address.

“That’s probably the most common thing we’re seeing right now is the witness address is something that’s missing,” Dankmeyer said.

When that happens, election officials are contacting the voter or their witness directly to correct the issue. But if they can’t find a way to contact you, they’ll send you a letter, which could take some time.

“The clerks are working hard as these ballots are coming in to make sure everything is filled out properly so we can count them on Election Day,” Dankmeyer said.

If you want to vote ahead of time, the clock is ticking.

“If you’re going to vote absentee, do it now, get your ballot back now, so we can be assured that it can be here and be counted,” Dankmeyer said.

As of now, a ballot only has to be postmarked and in the mail by Election Day, but this timeline is being disputed in the courts. Dankmeyer said don’t count on the extra time for it to be counted, especially if there is an issue with your ballot.

You can track where your ballot is before it arrives to your home and after you send it back to election officials. Go to myvote.wi.gov for more information.