Absentee ballot shift for Trump looks unlikely

Donald Trump campaigns at UW-Eau Claire Tuesday.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump campaigns at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016, in Eau Claire, Wis.
Matt Rourke | AP File

Donald Trump is urging early voters for Hillary Clinton to change their ballots for him, but it's unlikely enough will heed his call to affect the presidential race.

At a rally in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, Trump urged early voters in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Michigan to recast their ballots in his favor if they're having a "bad case of buyer's remorse" after voting for Clinton.

Those states do indeed allow early voters to change their ballots. Wisconsin, for example, lets people change their absentee ballot up to three times. But the provisions are obscure, few voters in the past have changed their ballots, the window for recasting early votes is rapidly closing and Trump's message probably isn't enough to motivate anyone who's already voted to change their mind, said Barry Burden, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"A person would have to have a tremendous change of heart to switch from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump at this point," Burden said Wednesday. "The people who cast their ballot in September or October are the least likely to change their votes. The vast majority of people who have cast ballots are not really open to new messages."

By Wednesday, early voters in Minnesota were stuck with their choices. The deadline for canceling an early ballot in that state was Tuesday; election judges across the state have started opening and processing those votes. The secretary of state doesn't track the number of ballots that have been canceled in order to change a vote.

The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot in Pennsylvania, meanwhile, was Tuesday. The only way early voters can change their ballots now is to show up at their local polling site on Election Day and vote in-person, which would nullify their absentee ballots. Wanda Murren, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, said her agency didn't have any data on how many people requested a second ballot before Tuesday's deadline.

Voters in Michigan who have already cast an absentee ballot can get a new one if they visit their local clerk's office before 4 p.m. Monday. Fred Woodhams, a spokesman for the Michigan secretary of state's office, said it's rare for someone to ask for a new absentee ballot. Requests usually come because the voter has mistakenly voted for too many candidates in a race or has spilled coffee on the ballot, he said. Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey said some voters have asked for new ballots this year, but not a great number.

A Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday showed Clinton with 64 percent of the early Wisconsin vote compared to 25 percent for Trump. Voters had until Thursday to request new absentee ballots by mail and until the end of in-person early voting to get a new ballot at their local clerk's offices. Most municipalities stop early in-person voting on Friday, although the state deadline is technically Sunday.

Neil Albrecht, executive director of the city of Milwaukee election commission, said about 41,000 people have already voted early in the city and the commission has had fewer than a half-dozen people request to change their ballot. No one has asked to change it since Trump made his call Tuesday night, Albrecht said. He didn't expect an onslaught of people changing their minds before early voting in the city ends Saturday.

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