Wisconsin Voting Results Won’t Be Known for a Week

An irrelevant judicial order is being enforced for no apparent reason.

Curious as to how things turned out after the highest courts in both Wisconsin and the United States ordered the election to go forward as though there were no pandemic or stay-at-home order, I discovered another bizarre twist.

The Madison Cap Times:

An unprecedented Election Day has come to an end in Wisconsin. But the state won’t know the outcome of the spring general and presidential primary until next week.

Though unofficial elections results are typically posted the night of a contest, state officials warned local clerks not to broadcast them Tuesday after a federal judge last week prohibited reporting them until April 13.

While much of the judge’s ruling was altered by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Monday night that cut short the window for absentee voting in the state and required ballots to be postmarked by Tuesday to be counted, the order didn’t touch the lower judge’s directive pushing back Election Night reporting.

While the Wisconsin Elections Commission told clerks they could count the number of ballots on Election Night, they should not tally votes Tuesday at the polling place and instead wait until next week Monday after 4 p.m.

The lack of results caps off an unusual in-person election and cycle, as officials scrambled to ensure voter and poll worker safety amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Given the shortage of volunteers to risk their lives in manning voting stations, I wouldn’t have been surprised if there simply weren’t enough folks to count the votes quickly. But this is just bizarre: the order to not put out results was to avoid prejudicing those who sent their absentee ballots in after Election Day pursuant to the extension order. One would think overturning said order would overturn that provision as well, because it’s now just stifling the public’s right to know how their democracy is doing.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Democracy, US Politics, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. MarkedMan says:

    In their great haste to help their party in Wisconsin it now appears the Republicans on the Supreme Court made two sloppy mistakes: the one mentioned above, and the one where they made up a requirement out of whole cloth that votes must be received by Election Day or they would be trashed. Wisconsin state law actually said that votes must be postmarked by Election Day, not received.

    Or perhaps it was no mistake, but rather just another little gift to the Wisconsin Republicans.

  2. James Joyner says:


    they made up a requirement out of whole cloth that votes must be received by Election Day or they would be trashed.

    I have seen no evidence that happened. They narrowly overturned a lower court’s arbitrary one-week extension of the date ballots had to be postmarked.

    Maybe you’re thinking of the ruling by a commission that absentee ballots without the required witness signature won’t be counted?

  3. Slugger says:

    Many countries vote on the weekend in order to make it easy for working people to vote. The US votes on Tuesdays. The US also has a history of poll taxes and literacy testing in some states before allowing voting. We have states that have mail-in voting with very few instances of fraud. The barriers to voting are intentional, and we should not pretend otherwise.

  4. Kathy says:

    The governor was in effect saying “we’ll take it slow because we are in a hurry.” While the courts said “Hurry up and WAIT.”

  5. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner: It appears that the “must be received by April 7th” as opposed to “must be postmarked by April 7th” was either not in the opinion itself or clarified elsewhere in the opinion. It’s hard to track down the original reporting on this because there are uncorrected or confusing articles all over the place and I couldn’t find my original source. In any case, the State Bar of Wisconsin website says (as of just now) the ballots postmarked by the 7th and received by the 13th would be counted, so I with draw my claim. I would appreciate it if you would delete my comment or do an editor’s note on it.

  6. Han says:

    @James Joyner:

    They narrowly overturned a lower court’s arbitrary one-week extension of the date ballots had to be postmarked.

    Can you provide a site as to where you’re getting the the assertion that current Wisconsin law requires postmarks? Everything I’ve seen reported is that it is not required, and SCOTUS requiring a postmark not only is changing Wisconsin law, but arguably is “fundamentally” changing the election at least as much as allowing more time for absentee ballots to be delivered.

  7. Mike in Arlington says:

    Well, thank God the supreme court stepped in and made sure the late sent absentee ballots would not be counted, otherwise we would have to wait to learn the results of the election!

  8. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Both NY and NJ have delayed their primaries, today.
    But Wisconsin couldn’t…because every life is precious, and none are more precious than the political life of a Wisconsin Republican.

  9. de stijl says:

    @James Joyner:

    As a relatively new ex – Repbulican, you are probably not attuned to the means and methods those folks use to suppress votes.

    This mishigas in Wisconsin is a new low. Literally risking your life to vote.

    Disgusting and infuriating. Something I will never forget or forgive.