Shorewood voters favor Biden

The Nov. 3 election that ended in a Biden victory was decided on Nov. 7 with the pivotal win in Pennsylvania for the former vice president. But Wisconsin and Michigan, key swing states that Biden flipped, put him on the doorstep of the White House.

Milwaukee county, which saw 460,300 ballots cast, was instrumental to Biden’s flip, and saw big voter turnout.

9,316 Shorewood voters filled out ballots, over 90% of the 10,200 registered voters in the village. This year, voting via absentee or mail in ballots became more common among voters who tried to avoid the crowds of polling places due to the pandemic. 

Election day in Shorewood went smoothly, according to Sara Bruckman, village clerk.

“We had everything very planned, so we kind of knew what to expect,” Bruckman said. “It only took about 40 minutes for the longest line at the village center to get down to about nothing.”

According to the village’s unofficial results posted on their website the night of Nov. 3, the Biden/Harris ticket got 7,700 (82.6%) votes, and the Trump/Pence ticket got 1,460 (15.7%) votes. There were 76 votes for Liberatarian candidate Jo Jorgensen, and 38 ballots with write-ins for president. 

Shorewood’s vote counting system was preparing for the inevitable shift towards the common use of absentee ballots. In February, a new way to count absentee ballots was implemented. Central Count, a sole location where all absentee ballots would be counted, would be set up in the north gym of the high school. This system is a shift away from a system in which absentee ballots would be counted at locations where active polling was taking place. 

Central Count was first used in the Wisconsin Spring Primary in February of 2020, but couldn’t be used in the April election due to the pandemic and a lack of poll workers. 

“We had to staff all the locations that we needed to, and we processed [absentee ballots] back at the polling locations,” Bruckman said.

Susan Lofton, poll worker since 2008 and chief inspector since 2012, saw the turn to absentee ballots coming and wanted to be a part of Central Count. 

“About a year or so ago I knew [the clerk’s office] had been thinking about it, and I told them if they were interested that I would be interested in being a part of it,” Lofton said. “I personally felt that absentee ballots would become more common in the future and I wanted to be part of that.”

In years past, there were three polling locations for wards 14, 58 and 912. But for the Nov. election, wards 812 voted at the library, and the north gym of the high school –– where wards 58 usually vote –– was turned into Central Count. In Wisconsin, absentee ballots cannot begin to be counted until election day, so in the early hours of Nov. 3, the counting began. 

[At] around 6:15 in the morning, I’d say they brought us around 7,500 [ballots], and then we began our process at Central Count.

— Susan Lofton, chief inspector

“[At] around 6:15 in the morning, I’d say they brought us around 7,500 [ballots],” Lofton said. “And then we began our process at Central Count.” 

In total, the absentee to in-person voter ratio was staggering; 7,937 absentee ballots to 1,300 voters who came on Nov. third. The absentee rates were “almost double” than what was sent in for the Wisconsin August presidential primary, according to Lofton. 

Just over a week before the election, the Supreme Court ruled that Wisconsin ballots that arrive after Nov. 3 will not be counted, even if they were postmarked before election day. As of Nov. 6, the village clerk’s office had only received three ballots that they could not count due to that ruling. 

According to Bruckman, there are 115 outstanding ballots, meaning that 115 absentee ballots were sent to voters but never returned.

“Some of those people could have shown up at the polls,” Bruckman said. 

Although it is not officially known at the time of this being written if Trump will call a recount in Wisconsin –– which experts say would be tough to change the over 20,000-vote margin that Biden holds –– Shorewood will most likely be involved. Typically, according to Bruckman, if a recount is called, Shorewood will work with Milwaukee County to retrieve the ballots that are stored in the county’s facilities, at which point Shorewood’s chief inspector poll workers will begin to recount the ballots. The ballots will be re-fed through the machines for accuracy, and ballots that appear to be marked incorrectly, or if a voter crossed out their first pick and filled in a second, a remake will be made. A remake is when a chief inspector takes the intent of the voter, and takes a blank ballot, filling it out according to the voter’s intent.

“Most of the time –– I would say 99% of the time –– the election worker and inspector is able to determine the intent of the voter, and they will remake that ballot,” Bruckman said. “If not they will remake it with everything but the race that they cannot determine the intent of the voter.”

Most of the time –– I would say 99% of the time –– the election worker and inspector is able to determine the intent of the voter, and they will remake that ballot.

— Sara Bruckman, village clerk

“So they will compare the original ballot to the remakes to make sure that those are all equal,” Bruckman said. “And then, once all the processing is done, they will bring all those ballots to the lawyers and the lawyers will determine if there’s been any differences in what was processed on election day vs. what they were finding during the recount.”

According to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Trump is raising funds for a recount in Wisconsin –– which will cost over $2 million –– but some of the money could be spent on general campaign debts instead of recount charges. 

Although the Associated Press called the race on Nov. 7, Trump, his campaign and many Republicans have said that the election is not over. The cause for this belief is a distrust in the ballot counting system, especially regarding mail-in ballots. There have been many unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud and fraud by ballot counting facilities, notably made during Trump’s speech in the White House press room on Nov. 5

Lofton, who has been a chief inspector of elections in Shorewood since 2012, has never seen any instance of fraud in her 12 total years of experience.

“I have never seen an incident where I thought there was any fraud whatsoever, and of course it’s the chief inspectors job, if they are concerned about anything, to step in and question it and resolve it right then and there,” Lofton said.

As for Shorewood, Central Count was like any absentee counting facility in that there were inspectors and spectators that could observe the counting process for themselves. 

“For this Central Count, we had observers, they were there with us, they were kept to the sidelines but they were within six feet of all the workers, and they would observe every single thing we did, and they could reasonably ask questions,” Lofton said. “We accommodate them, and I think they indicated to us that they found our process to be very reliable and a very good one.”

For election day at the two polling stations in Shorewood, everything went very smoothly.

“We had no problems whatsoever in Shorewood, I’m not aware of any incidents of anybody being outside and trying to bother voters, we had no problems whatsoever at Center Count with anyone coming in and challenging us in any way,” Lofton said. 

“Shorewood is just an incredible community of people showing up and their patience and very positive attitude,” Bruckman said. “We had a great outpouring of people getting to work at the polls and they just did a fantastic job. It’s a very long day to commit to be there from 6 am to potential 10 or 11 at night, and the people that do give a lot of themselves to that day.”

Lofton hopes that more people will sign up in the future to work the polls, as it is a direct way to participate and help in the voting process. 

“If you really want to understand how our elections work, volunteer,” Lofton said. “Working as a poll worker is the best insight you can get. Shorewood always needs more poll workers and you can sign up easily at the village website.”