by Jeff Mandell, Senior Associate at Stafford Rosenbaum LLP in Madison, Wisconsin. Jeff is also the Chair of the newly formed ACS Madison Lawyer Chapter.
Yesterday’s vote by the electors of each State brought to a close the process that began with Election Day on Nov. 8. Or, more precisely, in various states, it began days or weeks earlier, when early voting opened and absentee ballots became available. This year, more than any before, I have been particularly focused on the process as well as the outcome. My efforts as a voter-protection volunteer reassured me that—setting the consequences of Wisconsin’s strict voter ID law to one side—there were no massive malfunctions in Wisconsin’s election day operations, but it also underscored how easy it is for individual votes, and voters, to fall through the cracks.
I woke hours before dawn on Election Day, picked up a friend and drove two hours on a narrow highway. I had volunteered to monitor complaints and concerns submitted by poll watchers. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin sent me to Oshkosh, where, with two other lawyers, I would field reports from poll observers spread across nine counties. Before the polls opened at 7:00 a.m., we opened our laptops in the dining room of a small house, reached out to the volunteers at polling places around our area and logged into a website on which we could follow reports from every one of the state’s 3,620 precincts. Fortified with a mountain of snacks, we settled in for the 13 hours the polls would be open.
Because I knew I would be spending Election Day in Oshkosh, I voted two weeks in advance. I knew Wisconsin allowed early voting but, at the time I cast my ballot, I had not yet studied state election law in preparation for my voter-protection duties. When I had voted early in other states before, my vote had been counted at the time I voted. But in Wisconsin, early voting is actually a form of absentee voting and absentee votes are not counted in advance.