Wisconsin lawmakers kill plan to allow election clerks to cure errant ballots

Wisconsin lawmakers: Rule of law, not Elections Commission guides absentee ballot rules.

Updated: July 21, 2022 - 7:01am

The long battle between Republican lawmakers and Wisconsin’s Elections Commission is not showing any signs of ending.

The latest came Wednesday when the Legislature’s Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules killed an emergency rule from the Elections Commission that would have allowed local election clerks to correct mistakes on voters’ absentee ballots, a process otherwise known as curing.

Specifically, the Commission said clerks don’t have to contact voters, and could instead rely on their own information to fill in missing pieces or addresses.

JCRAR chairman Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said the problem is not allowing clerks to fill in missing information, rather the problem is that the Elections Commission is ignoring current state law.

“[State law] is very clear. If a certificate is flawed the clerks have two choices, one is to send it back to the voter or set it aside and not count it. That’s in the law,” Nass explained. “WEC is trying to define ‘Here’s what can be done with the clerks.’ You can’t do that.”

Nass said if the Elections Commission or anyone else wants to allow clerks to make changes on absentee ballots, they need to go through the legislature and change the law.

Democratic lawmakers, however, said rejecting the Election Commission’s proposed changes means that some voters will see their votes erased.

“So the intent of the voter shouldn’t supersede the legislature’s making of a law?” Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee asked Wednesday. “If they don’t walk that fine line that a legislature puts out, that voter’s intent should not count?”

Nass said Wisconsin lawmakers tried to settle the absentee ballot questions back in the spring, but said Gov. Tony Evers shot down their attempt.

“The legislature did, with two bills, try to create a definition specifically as to what an address is, and they were both vetoed by the governor,” Nass reminded Larson.

JCRAR’s decision is not the final word on the question of absentee ballots, addresses, and what clerks can do. There is a pending case in Waukesha County court that could add some clarity.

Democrats say there are elections coming up in August and November, and say voters need clarity before they head to the polls.

It’s unclear just when the Waukesha County case will be settled.

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