Milwaukee adding drop box locations for absentee voting


A postal worker empties a box near the Fiserv Forum on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Milwaukee. Some election officials around the country are hoping to bypass the Postal Service by installing lots of ballot drop boxes in libraries, community centers and other public places. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Milwaukee plans to install more than a dozen secure drop boxes to make it easier for voters to drop off their absentee ballots before Election Day, Mayor Tom Barrett said on Tuesday.

Noting the challenges posed by voting absentee, Barrett spoke to around 90 Democratic activists, office holders and others in conjunction with the second day of the Democratic National Convention.

“We are doing everything we can to be make it convenient for people because of the health reasons, because of COVID-19, because it’s the right thing to do,” Barrett said.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced Tuesday that he would suspend a number of initiatives that have drawn criticism from Democrats, including removing the distinctive blue mail boxes, until after the election. He’s set to testify before the Senate‘s homeland security committee on Friday and the House Oversight Committee next week.

In Wisconsin, absentee ballots will be mailed in mid-September and must be received by local election officials either by mail or in person by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Democrats and allies filed a federal lawsuit that would extend the deadline for clerks to receive absentee ballots to within 10 days of the election. That case, opposed by Republicans, is pending.

In addition to being returned by mail, voters can also drop off their absentee ballots at most polling places on Election Day. However, there are 35 municipalities across Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, where ballots can’t be dropped off at the polls and instead must go to one or more central counting locations. That has raised concerns among election officials about confusion among voters who try to drop off their ballot at the polls on Nov. 3.

Installing drop boxes serves as a way to alleviate growing fears that a mailed ballot may not be received in time, said Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesman Reid Magney. The Elections Commission does not have a count on how many of the state’s 1,850 municipalities are offering drop boxes, Magney said.

Wausau recently added one, and Madison has been using drop boxes. Milwaukee is paying for 14 to 15 drop boxes by tapping part of a $2.1 million grant it received from the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life. Another $4.2 million went to Wisconsin’s next four largest cities — Madison, Green Bay, Racine and Kenosha — to help administer the fall election safely, including purchasing personal protective equipment and making other changes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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