Here’s how votes will be counted in Wisconsin on election night


Tuesday is Election Day and the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) is sharing important information about what will happen after the polls close at 8 p.m.

Local Wisconsin election officials will work late Tuesday evening to provide unofficial election results, the WEC said. Unofficial results aren’t known until the early hours of the day after an election, and sometimes even later, notes WEC administrator Meagan Wolfe. Wolfe is the state elections officer.

“When people make assumptions about the vote count based on what’s happening in other states or rumors, it can lead to misinformation,” Wolfe notes.


Election officials do not “call” elections on election night. The state has never had a statewide system for reporting unofficial results on election night. The WEC says there is also no central official website where results will be reported. Most of the unofficial results you see on election night and the days after come from the media.

Winners aren’t official until the results are certified, which occurs Dec. 1 under Wisconsin state law, the WEC said.

For those who want detailed unofficial results direct from the county clerks’ offices, you can find the 72 county clerks websites on the WEC website.



Polling stations close at 8 p.m., unless there are still voters lining up after that time. Poll workers will continue to process absentee ballots that have not yet been counted at 8 p.m. until they are completed.

According to the WEC, once all ballots have been processed and polling stations are officially closed, election workers will meet at the council of local canvassers, which is a public meeting. Voting equipment will print out a strip of results and it will be read aloud, announcing the total votes for that polling station, the WEC said.

City clerks provide unofficial results to county clerks, which will then be posted on the county’s website. These results must be communicated within two hours of the tabulation of the results. County clerks must then post the results within two hours of receiving them.

“Results may arrive differently for 38 towns, cities and towns that count all of their absentee ballots at a central facility,” the WEC said in a press release. “Several major cities, including Milwaukee, Green Bay, Kenosha, Racine and Wausau, count their absentee ballots centrally.”

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Coburn Dukhart/Wisconsin Watch

Voting signs are seen outside the Catholic Multicultural Center polling station in Madison, Wisconsin on November 3, 2020. Conservative activists say holes in the state’s voter database allowed certain ineligible voters to vote. But their efforts also confused ineligible and eligible voters and spread misleading information, Wisconsin Watch found.

For a complete list of municipalities that use central metering, visit the WEC website.

Central counting facilities are open on election day and after the polls close to allow the public to observe during the counting.


“At these facilities, election inspectors will examine mail-in ballot certificate envelopes for required information before entering those ballots in the poll book,” the WEC said. “Once a voter number is assigned to the voter, each envelope will be opened, the absentee ballot will be removed and flattened, and the ballot will then be processed on the voting equipment.”

According to the WEC, the unofficial evening results of the central tally municipalities may not all arrive at the county clerk’s office at the same time.

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File image of a ballot.

“The second step in the certification process is at the county level. Each county has a Board of Canvassers who are scheduled to begin meeting at 9 a.m. on November 15 to begin certifying official results,” the WEC said. “These are also public meetings. The county canvassers board is made up of the county clerk and two other people. County clerks are elected on a partisan basis, so one of the other two members must be of the opposing party. to the county clerk.. The county certification deadline is November 22.

With respect to recounts, the WEC indicates that for the state level and national offices on the general election ballot would be filed with the WEC.

“If the vote totals for these two-candidate contests are separated by 1% or less, the candidate next to the leading candidate has the right to request a recount,” the WEC said. “Wisconsin does not have an automatic recount, even if the unofficial results are close. There is no cost to the requesting candidate if the difference between the leading candidate and the requester is 0.25% or less If the difference is greater than 0.25%, the WEC will estimate the cost, which must be paid before the recount begins.”

postal ballots


Postal votes, image file

Further information on the recounts is available at CMC website.

The third step is for WEC staff to receive results from counties before rechecking numbers for all counties. There are also random post-election audits of voting materials used to tally votes in 10% of the state’s reporting units, the WEC said. One day after the election, 180 reporting units for audits will be randomly selected.

City clerks in those jurisdictions must then double-count all ballots to ensure the total matches the results of the voting equipment. The audits are also open to the public.

The WEC chairman is due to certify the statewide results on Dec. 1.

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