Milwaukee elections staff to make changes after 386 ballots uncounted, 65 lost

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee elections leaders will make changes for future elections to prevent hundreds of ballots from going uncounted.

The city found 386 absentee ballots during the Milwaukee County recount, unopened, at the bottom of a box.

Another 65 ballots from election day have gone missing.

The recount was delayed an extra day for Milwaukee to find those those 65 missing ballots.

Elections staff thought they found them in one of the voting machines at the city's warehouse, but found training ballots instead.

The 65 have likely ended up in a landfill.

"We're still searching in all our materials," said Milwaukee Election Commission Director Claire Woodall-Vogg to the Milwaukee Common Council Judiciary & Legislation Committee.

During the recount two mysteries showed up in Milwaukee. The first: 65 election day ballots were not in their sealed bags.

"We located voted ballots in the machine," said Woodall-Vogg to the county election commissioners during the recount.

But Monday, December 7th, Woodall-Vogg told the committee the 65 missing ballots were likely left behind at the polling place by mistake.

"So those were never discovered?" said asked committee chair Ashanti Hamilton.

"My guess would be based on the fact they haven't turned up anywhere else that they were likely thrown away," said Woodall-Vogg.

The county cleaned polling places three days after the election.

Mystery two: 386 ballots found at the bottom of a box that weren't counted on election night.

"The staff who came up and said here are our ballots, did they also indicate to the tabulator, and that's all there is and they're done?" asked committee member Scott Spiker.

"This was their first time working and there was a failure at the exit of their shift," said Woodall-Vogg.

Going forward, Woodall-Vogg said elections workers will compare the number of absentee ballots returned in each ward against the number opened and counted. She apologized to the committee.

"I apologize, that was a failure on my part, I wasn't able to balance the various demands on my department right after the election on very tight timelines," said Woodall-Vogg.

The 65 that likely wound up in the garbage were counted, they just could not be recounted. The election commission is also just now paying its election workers for their work on November third. Its payroll division has been sidelined by a COVID outbreak.

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