Daniel Bice, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
If at first you don't succeed, then videoconference again.
Less than 24 hours after their last meeting was "Zoombombed," members of the Milwaukee Election Commission met by videoconference again Monday, voting to count at least 390 absentee ballots that have problems with their postmarks.
On a 2-1 vote along partisan lines, the commission said it would disenfranchise voters if they didn't include these questionable ballots in their voting tally to be taken later in the day.
Of the 390 ballots received by the city after the April 7 election, officials said some had illegible postmarks, others had no postmark at all and a few had a postmark with no date.
"I don't want to disenfranchise any more voters because we don't have enough information as to when those ballots were submitted," said Chairwoman Stephanie Findley, who holds a Democratic Party seat on the commission.
Jess Ripp, a Republican Party representative, called the situation "traumatic and troubling." But he said he believed the U.S. Supreme Court had given the commission little leeway.
"Unfortunately, the only option is to discount them," Ripp said of the questionable absentee ballots.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that ballots postmarked by April 7 and received by municipalities by April 13 can be counted in the election.
The Milwaukee action comes after election clerks around the state said they had received mailed ballots that were not postmarked, including nearly 700 in Madison alone.
City Election Commissioner Neil Albrecht said his office had received more than 11,000 absentee ballots since April 8. Of these, 9,962 had postmarks indicating that they were sent by April 7 or sooner. Another 789 were not counted because they were postmarked after that date.
But the city ran into a problem with 390 absentee ballots received since April 8 with problematic postmarks.
For instance, some mailed-in ballots from the Teutonia Station Post Office on the city's north side had a postmark featuring a red circle on it but no date. Others had smudged hand-stamped postmarks. Still more went through the postal service with no postmark at all.
Postal officials had a hard time explaining what happened in these instances or when the ballots may have been dropped in the mail.
"All ballots should have postmarks on them," said Stan Franke, a marketing manager in the Milwaukee office.
Milwaukee could not get any help from the Wisconsin Elections Commission on the matter. That panel deadlocked on whether mailed-in ballots received after April 7 with illegible or missing postmarks should be considered valid.