Boards of election canvassing results, dispelling 'conspiracy theories'

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MILWAUKEE COUNTY (CBS 58) -- Boards of election throughout the state are canvassing ballots this week before certifying the results and making them official.

A minor issue was identified in West Allis, but elections officials say they corrected the mistake and no outcomes were impacted.

West Allis elections officials discovered 133 absentee ballots were not counted on election day because they had been locked away in a secure bin. They were processed at Thursday's canvassing meeting, which was symbolically held in a transparent glass room.

The officials say unfounded rumors and conspiracy theories about election interference are hurting the democratic process.

West Allis City Attorney Kail Decker said, "It's very much worth the embarrassment of having some sort of error to make sure every vote is counted, and that's just something we'll take on the chin."

The error was an oversight, not a miscount. Per state statute, West Allis absentee ballots were canvassed on election day. The 133 were overlooked because they were locked in a secure, blue plastic bin for safekeeping.

Decker said, "That's a great thing, actually. Because the ballots actually never left the room all the way from Friday until Tuesday."

The 133 absentee ballots were not enough to change any results once they were counted Thursday. West Allis has an easy solution to make sure ballots are not left in bins next time: they're ordering clear bins so they can see inside.

In Milwaukee County it takes a few days for election workers to canvass, going through about 70 different races.

Elections Director Julietta Henry said, "You're checking everything. From looking at the ward number, looking at the absentee number. There's a checklist they literally go through to verify everything is correct."

Canvassing for the 18th County Supervisory District race was stopped Thursday because the results from two city wards had not yet been delivered.

Henry said, "The city of Milwaukee as a courtesy, they gave us what they had on District 18 yesterday so we could be ready to start our process today. So we are perfectly fine because we have to canvass the entire county before we have those final numbers."

Henry said there's no cause for concern because the city has until Monday to finish canvassing before sending results to the county.

Nonetheless it fueled rumors on social media of impropriety or fraud. Elections officials are dismayed by attacks on the nonpartisan, democratic process.

Henry said, "It's unfortunate this process that has worked in this country for hundreds of years is being questioned now, for no reason."

Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson said, "We have people that are out there spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories that have been debunked and just aren't accurate. I just wish people would come down and educate themselves on this."

Anyone can observe the canvassing process. In Milwaukee County canvassing will continue Friday morning in room G7 of the County Courthouse starting at 10 a.m.

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