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WI Election Officials Reject New Absentee-Voting Rules

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Thursday, July 14, 2022   

Wisconsin's election officials are trying to determine how a recent ruling from the Wisconsin Supreme Court outlawing absentee-ballot drop boxes will impact absentee voting in next month's primary elections.

The state's six-person bipartisan elections commission this week failed to agree on new guidance for clerks to help them apply the ruling.

Bob Spindell, a Republican Wisconsin Elections Commissioner, said in the group's meeting Tuesday the commission's failure to agree on the guidance would essentially leave local officials to figure it out themselves.

"We have a responsibility, as the Wisconsin Elections Commission, to give some guidance on this important decision that came down," Spindell contended. "I think we should at least give some minimal guidance to the 1,850 municipal clerks out there."

Providing election guidance to county and municipal clerks is one of the elections commission's basic functions. But in this case, the commission's three Democrats argued the proposed rules were overreaching, and could potentially generate more lawsuits.

The policies included a new rule mandating the elector themselves mail or return their ballot, not a family member or unapproved second party. While the issue was at hand in the court case outlawing drop boxes, the state's high court did not specifically weigh in on that part of the challenge.

Ann Jacobs, a Democratic Wisconsin Elections Commissioner, believes the proposed policy changes are unnecessary.

"I don't think it provides guidance," Jacobs asserted. "I think it provides our own interpretation of something that clerks have an independent responsibility to interpret."

The proposed guidelines would have established new voter ID requirements for absentee ballots. Democrats and voting-rights groups have protested the court's decision to ban drop boxes, contending it will make it more difficult for those with disabilities and the elderly to cast absentee ballots.

Ballots still can be returned by mail or to a clerk's office, and Wisconsin's primary election is August 9.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.


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