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Wisconsin Election Commissioner Weighs in on What That ‘Succession’ Episode Got Right & Wrong

Sarah Snook as Shiv in 'Succession'

One of the best things about social media is that it gives us all access to a wide array of experts we wouldn’t usually get to hear from. Case in point: The Wisconsin Election Commissioner recently posted a Twitter thread weighing in on what an episode of Succession got right and wrong about the state’s voting process in the face of a catastrophe.

Succession is a dark comedy that first premiered on HBO on June 3, 2018. The series follows the Roy family as four adult siblings, Connor (Alan Ruck), Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roy (Kieran Culkin), and Shiv (Sarah Snook), grapple over who will inherit their father’s business Waystar RoyCo as his health begins declining. Succession has gained critical acclaim by exploring family dysfunction, scandal, wealth, corruption, and betrayal.

Leading up to its season 4 finale, the series dropped a particularly tense episode. Succession season 4, episode 8, “America Decides,” sees the Roys following a Presidential race between Democratic candidate Daniel Jiménez (Elliot Villar) and Republican candidate Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk). The race is extremely close but gets thrown into complete chaos when suspected Mencken supporters firebomb a voting center in Milwaukee, destroying thousands of ballots. Some use the situation to prematurely call the race for their preferred presidential candidate, while others demand a revote, and accusations fly. Down in Milwaukee, officials struggle with what to do as no law covers the situation, and they’re left with no way to tell which ballots were destroyed.

The episode does a good job of providing a nightmare election scenario that eerily parallels some of the contentious elections we’ve seen in real life. Additionally, it likely left many of us wondering if such a situation could actually happen in real life. It’s quite a scary thought, as one can only imagine the volatile riots that would break out if such an event occurred and sparked election rigging accusations. Fortunately, Ann Jacobs shed some light on how accurate the episode was.

Wisconsin Election Commissioner weighs in on Succession episode

Jacobs took to Twitter with a seven-part thread that explained the things that “America Decides” got right and wrong about voting in Wisconsin.

Jacobs started by explaining what the show got right, which was that the election regulatory agencies in Wisconsin are called the Wisconsin Elections Commission and Milwaukee Election Commission. Additionally, she confirmed that all absentee ballots in Milwaukee “are processed in one place on election day.”

Then, she delved into what Succession got wrong. One of the biggest things she pointed out is that Milwaukee officials, in the case of a fire, would’ve been able to easily tell which ballots were lost, whereas in Succession the ballots were essentially lost for good. In Milwaukee, when absentee ballots arrive, they are logged even before being opened by a quick scan of a barcode. This allows both voters and officials to track the absentee ballots as they arrive. Hence, in the case of a fire, officials would be able to tell which ballots were lost, as long as they were scanned. Even if some ballots were lost that weren’t scanned, Jacobs estimated it would be less than two dozen.

Jacobs then went on to address a point that wasn’t addressed in Succession, which is what happens after the ballots are burned. Since the show is right that there are no statutes that outline what to do about burned absentee ballots, the issue would be taken to courts immediately for resolution. And, indeed, in the show’s season finale, Shiv makes a quick reference to the “Wisconsin court thing” (Connor calls it a “hiccup” in his diplomatic plans) indicating that this is what’s happening.

Since this has never happened, Jacobs can’t really predict what the courts would decide. However, they’d most likely find some way to allow voters whose ballots were lost still to get to vote. It’s highly unlikely they’d just shrug and declare the ballots lost and inconsequential.

Hence, Jacobs confirms that such a scenario could happen, and it would create a lot of unknowns because there’s precedence for such a situation. However, election officials do have ways to ensure that ballots can’t be so easily lost without a trace. Jacobs’ clarifications could be really useful in dispelling claims of voter fraud or election rigging if such a scenario does arise, as it shows there are some measures to prevent massive losses of ballots.

(featured image: HBO)

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Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.