How HBO’s ‘Succession’ Got That Milwaukee Burned-Ballots Scene Wrong

There is a way to track votes, even if they’re destroyed in a fire, Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Ann Jacobs says

Succession episode "America Decides"
Succession episode "America Decides" (HBO)

In Sunday’s episode of “Succession,” the presidential election hits a major snag when a polling station in Milwaukee is fire-bombed, destroying 100,000 absentee ballots.

“You can’t get burned ballots back,” says Kieran Culkin’s Roman Roy, who pushes for the Roy family’s TV network, ATN, to declare that the far-right candidate Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk) has won the election.

The real-life State of Wisconsin Elections Commissioner, Ann Jacobs, shared a Twitter thread that, actually, yes, there is a way to get burned ballots back. Or at least know who sent in the absentee ballots.

Darwin, an aptly named ATN voting analyst played by Adam Godly, is partly right, according to Jacobs’ take.

“I would say a revote is incredibly rare and complex,” Darwin says in the “Succession” scene. “Because, while we theoretically know everyone who requested an absentee ballot, we don’t entirely know how many turned them in, and there’s nothing in Wisconsin law that really covers what to do.”

But according to Jacobs, “because the ballots are logged in, we actually would know whose ballots were burned up.”

“What they got wrong (and it’s sort of a key part of this plot line),” she wrote, “When MKE receives absentee ballots, they are logged in. (They use a barcode & scanner). This is how you can track that your ballot arrived on Myvote! It’s really a great feature.”

This would solve the question of whose votes were destroyed, but not, of course, how they voted.

As Sarah Snook’s Shiv Roy suggests, “They’d have to hold [the election] again. A re-vote.” She argues, “Even Dad would respect the process,” and that they cannot officially call the state for Mencken until the absentee ballots are counted, but she is overruled by brothers Roman and Kendall (Jeremy Strong).

See Jacobs’ full thread below.

The “America Decides” episode of “Succession” Season 4 is now streaming on HBO Max.