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Wisconsin Vote Counting Guide

Last Updated: November 4th, 2020

UPDATE: Wisconsin will go to Joe Biden
(11:15AM Wisconsin)

Key Takeaway: Counting in Wisconsin will likely extend all night with in-person voting tallies reported before absentee by-mail ballots, but absentee ballots will be 60-80% of the total.

Polls Close - 8pm

Votes Counted - Election Day

Final Certification - December 1

2016 Donald Trump won Wisconsin by 22,748 votes

4pm on Wednesday is a statutory deadline for reporting unofficial results, but some counties have already indicated they will not meet that.

Wisconsin law requires all vote, including absentee ballots, to be tallied on Election Day. This does not mean we will have results on the night of the election, but the count will continue as long as it takes without interruption.

Only 6% of voters normally participate using absentee by-mail voting but 60-80% will this election. Wisconsin’s system for counting, tabulating and reporting votes remains the same. Votes cannot be counted before election day and deadlines for counting cannot be extended.

What to Watch For

  • 39 municipalities process absentee ballots at a central locations, which can take longer. This is mainly in more populous counties that are likely to have more Democratic voters like Milwaukee.
  • Old tabulation software in some counties will falsey report “100% Complete” once in-person votes are tabulated but not account for absentee by-mail votes.
  • Absentee ballots that are received after 8pm on Election Day will not be counted following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
  • 80,000 mail ballots arrived after election day in the 2020 primary
  • Ballots at drop-boxes must be delivered to polling places or central counting locations by 8pm on Election Day to be counted.
  • Any person waiting in line to vote when polls close (8 pm) must be allowed to vote.

Mail-In Ballots

Once a ballot is returned via the post office or dropbox election workers check the outside envelope to make sure there are no obvious errors like a missing witness signature or address but ballots are not counted until 7AM on Election Day.

  • Ballot Curing - No
  • Eligibility Check - Upon ballot receipt
  • Processing Ballots - Nov. 2
  • Tabulation Starts - Nov. 3
  • Last Day Ballots Received - Nov. 3

(Ballout Curing is a process for a voter to fix an issue with their mail-in ballot.)


  • _Estimate for full unofficial results: Nov. 6 – _all ballots counted
  • By Nov. 5, 9:00 a.m. - Boards of county canvassers meet to canvass November general election.
  • By Nov. 17 - Boards of county canvassers complete canvass of November general election; county clerks forward results to Secretary of State within 24 hours.
  • By Nov. 23 - Board of State Canvassers meet to canvass November general election.


Wisconsin Voting Deadlines and Facts for November 2020

Milwaukee’s Central Count facility will tabulate votes in three shifts on Election Day

Mayor Tom Barrett says the city is as prepared as it possibly can be to count an estimated 175,000 absentee ballots on Election Day.

Meg Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Election workers will have to pull all-nighters to count Wisconsin ballots

State law doesn’t allow election officials to take a break to get some sleep, so they’ll have to work through the night.

Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Count Every Vote © 2020