SHEBOYGAN COUNTY — Counting ballots in any election is a stressful job for poll workers. But the 2020 Nov. 3 election has been unlike any other.
Sheboygan County Clerk Jon G. Dolson took some time to walk us through what Tuesday night really looked once the polls closed.
Why did we see such a late shift in support for Joe Biden?
Sheboygan County's first round of results were released at 9:25 p.m. The earliest counts (27,927), put Donald Trump at a 65% advantage to Biden's 35%. However, Trump ended up winning the county with just 58% of the votes.
This means Biden recorded a 7% swing between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. See the hour-by hour breakdown here.
Dolson said that was mostly the result of the City of Sheboygan votes coming in at that hour.
"The City of Sheboygan numbers were coming in later in the evening and those were more for candidate Biden. The vast majority of the city is democrat," Dolson said. "They had eight remote sites, so they had to rectify their numbers at the end of the night, package them and then bring them to City Hall. Then Meredith DeBruin and Sherrill Smith and their staff had to double check them and get them all in and email me the results. Those weren't coming in to me until right before 11 p.m., and I ran the next report between 11:15 and 11:30, and that showed."
According to Dolson, 23 of the 26 wards in the city went to Biden.
How did voter registration and absentee ballots play a factor?
As we hopefully all know by now, Wisconsin has been one of the states at the center of this election. Two of those reasons are because of the state's policy to wait to count absentee ballots until Election Day and the fact that voter registration stays open through Election Day.
The county saw a 92% voter turnout, up 86% from 2016's general election when a president was last on the ballot.
"On our end, this election ran smoother because results kind of trickled in," Dolson said. "It ran smoothly, but it was a surprise with all the same-day registration. Every municipal blew previous numbers out of the water. Plymouth alone had nearly 300 people register yesterday ... that's where you were seeing the lines yesterday. The lines were for registration, not for our machines.
"Looking back four years ago, Trump had like 32,000 votes and Clinton had 22,000 for the county," he added. "This year, Trump had 37,000 and Biden had 27,000. Each gained about 5,000 votes. That's a good turnout."
In terms of the counting process with such a national surge in absentee ballots, both in-person and mail-in, Dolson said the county didn't have a particular strategy.
"It was just about getting absentees in as soon as we could, but we couldn't do that until the close of the polls—and the close of the polls means no more electors are there to vote. The town of Holland didn't get results until late late, after midnight, because they had such a flow of are registration and people voting that there was no time freed up on the tabulator for them to insert absentees. That happened in Plymouth as well."
Dolson said the county does not specify between in-person and mail-in absentee ballots, it just counts the overall number of absentee ballots cast, which is not yet available.
Next Tuesday, Nov. 10, the County Board of Canvass with the Wisconsin Elections Commission will meet to certify the results. Those finalized results will go into the state system and be filed away with the county.
"It's my eighth year here, and we've never gone back and put in the official results (online) because it never really changes much," he explained.