Wisconsin Elections Commission won’t end absentee ballot guidance, lawmakers furious

Disagreement over Wisconsin’s law on absentee ballots could be headed for court.

Updated: July 21, 2022 - 11:45pm

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The disagreement over Wisconsin’s law on absentee ballots could be headed for court.

Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, on Thursday directed his staff to look at any and all options after the Wisconsin Elections Commission said it will not abide by the legislature’s decision to stop telling local election clerks they can fill in missing information on absentee ballots, a practice also called "curing."

“The commissioners and staff of WEC have a lengthy history of ignoring state elections law by issuing rogue guidance to municipal clerks and election workers. However, their actions in the last 12 hours can only be described as absolute lawlessness,” Nass said. “I have asked my leadership to immediately take legal action to obtain a court order to compel WEC’s compliance with state law regarding absentee ballot certification procedures.”

Nass’ Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules on Wednesday killed the Elections Commission’s formal rule for adding missing information to absentee ballots.

Republican lawmakers say state law is clear, clerks can only add information to absentee ballots after speaking with voters. If not, that ballot must be set aside.

An Elections Commission spokesperson, Riley Vetterkind, said state law also requires a 4-2 vote from Election Commissioners before that guidance can be reversed.

That’s not likely to happen.

"So our 2016 guidance regarding absentee certificate envelopes remains in place at this time," he said in a statement. "The Commission, however, may meet to determine further action on the topic."

Nass said the Elections Commission was wrong in 2016, and is wrong today.

“State law makes abundantly clear that any absentee ballot certification that contains a missing address for the witness shall not be counted,” Nass added. “The WEC emergency rule was an attempt to circumvent state law.”

Nass then warned Wisconsin’s 1,850 local election managers not to follow the Elections Commission’s path.

“I am also calling on all municipal clerks and election workers to comply with the specifics of state law regarding the procedure for correcting absentee ballot certifications,” Nass said. “Anyone that follows the WEC guidance could be exposing themselves to both civil and criminal liability for violating state law.”