Questions about the integrity of the election? The Dane Co. Clerk answers them here

From U.S.P.S. concerns to absentee voting questions, Scott McDonell responds

MADISON, Wis. — From concerns about the U.S. Postal Service to questions about absentee voting and the overarching question of the integrity of the election, many of us still have questions heading into Election Night this fall. News 3 Now This Morning’s Leah Linscheid talked one-on-one with Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell to get his perspective on some of the most frequently asked questions.

Leah: Let’s start with the question of the integrity of the election – it seems to be on the mind of many today. What do you say to those who are concerned about voting in this election?

McDonell: We’ve been doing this for decades, and we haven’t seen any cases of voter fraud other than a handful of ballots, and those get prosecuted. There’s a really strong system of checking to see if someone [is who they say they are]. Photo ID helps a lot as far as being able to check who someone is.

We actually audit all of our elections afterwards and publish the ballot images in Dane County, so [there are] many layers of security on the election.

Leah: A lot of those concerns stem from absentee voting. Some folks are saying, ‘is my absentee ballot going to be counted?’ Are those concerns legitimate?

McDonell: There are more examples of ballots being excluded, usually because someone forgot to sign it or have a witness sign it – so you need to check to make sure your absentee ballot is completely filled out. Sometimes people overvote – they vote for two candidates for president. That is going to invalidate that race, but it won’t invalidate the rest of your ballot.

You can also track the progress of your ballot online at It’ll say whether your ballot was received by the clerk, and that way, you can make sure it got in, at least.

Leah: The U.S. Postal Service has been in the news a lot lately… should folks be concerned if they’re sending in their absentee ballot via the mail?

McDonell: I think you should feel safe sending in your ballot right now. My experience with the postal service is it’s turning around quickly right now. As we get closer to Election Day, you might want to think about voting in person for the last two weeks, or using the drop boxes (and on our website we have a list of drop boxes). But the most important thing is if you have your ballot now or get it in the next few days, just turn it around – put it in the mail, don’t hang onto it.

Leah: Do you have a suggested cutoff deadline for using the mail?

McDonell: I would say one week from Election Day, either vote in person or use the drop boxes.

Leah: You’re talking about these drop boxes – what are they, are they a new idea and how secure are they?

McDonell: They’re not a new idea. Townships and villages have been using them forever, to drop off people’s payments for cash… they’re usually built right into the building. They’re used out west – Colorado, Washington, Hawaii – this is not a new thing, and the security is well tested.

(For more information on local drop boxes, click here).

Leah: The courts still seem to be deciding when your ballot needs to be at your clerk’s office… do you anticipate [the absentee ballot deadline] is going to change again by Election Day, and what’s your guidance to voters on that?

McDonell: All voters should assume that if the ballot arrives after Election Day, it won’t be counted… this goes back to what I mentioned early, get your ballot in as soon as you can.

Leah: Madison held an event recently over 200 parks to collect absentee ballots… and Republican leaders, via their lawyers, sent a letter questioning the legality of the event – do you expect those ballots to be questioned in court?

McDonell: I don’t, because there’s no law to challenge a ballot based on how they’re received. There’s very specific language in the statutes about how you can challenge someone’s ballot. Really, there’s nothing more sacred than your vote – so the things you can challenge it on are really, you’re not who you say you are and you don’t live where you say you are. How you got it to the clerk’s office is not on the list.

Leah: We’re expecting an unprecedented number of absentee ballots this year. Do you have faith that clerks’ offices can handle that influx?

McDonell: We can definitely handle it. It’ll be accurate – the only thing that will change is it will take a little longer than normal. Election night might last until 2 or 3 a.m., where in previous years it was [done by the] 11, 10 o’clock news. So I think everyone should expect things will take a little bit longer than normal. There will be places around the state where maybe it’s the next morning… The important thing is we’re careful and accurate, and I think we can all wait a few hours to get our results.

Leah: Should voters have faith in the absentee ballot process? Should they believe their ballot will be counted?

McDonell: They should. It’s been going on for 100 years, it’s how military voters vote, and there are a lot of strict laws around that because we want to protect overseas and military voters, so this is not a new thing – there’s just more of them [this year.]