MILWAUKEE - The American Civil Liberties Union has released a report titled Racial Justice Demands That Every Vote Is Counted,” which identifies states, including Wisconsin, and their counties where discounting mail-in ballots would disproportionately disenfranchise communities of color and potentially improperly change the outcome of the Nov. 3 election.

The analysis looks at Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — three states widely acknowledged as critical to determining the outcome of the presidential race, where mail-in ballots are not processed until Election Day or the day before, increasing the danger of a confusing, unfounded, and premature victory call. Their status on the electoral map means they could also be targets for problematic ballot rejections or even an attempt to interfere with a full count of mail-in ballots during counting. The analysis also looks at Georgia, where the gap in vote-by-mail usage by race is particularly large, and the threat of disenfranchisement of voters of color is high.

“Everyone should be wary of attempts — whether by candidates, political parties, or media organizations — to call this election prematurely,” said Chris Ott, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are voting with a mail ballot this year than ever before. Black and Brown people have been and continue to be much more impacted by COVID, so it’s not surprising that they are opting to vote by mail. They deserve their say, and it’s the voters who will decide this election.”

Key points include:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in the number of voters who are expected to cast a mail-in ballot. Communities of color are disproportionately planning to vote by mail — nationwide, and in the key states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
  • The analysis identifies counties where disregarding or improperly treating mail-in ballots is likely to have the greatest impact on election outcomes and representation of voters of color.
  • The counties that will have the highest number of mail-in ballots from voters of color are exactly those where the mail-in vote can change the outcome of the election — places that could be targets for interference.
  • In Wisconsin, the gaps between white and non-white planned vote-by-mail rates is 5 percentage points. 
  • Discounting the by-mail vote and the votes of communities of color can improperly change the course of the election.