Wisconsin Senate leader warns Elections Commission: Don't bypass Legislature on ballot curing

The Wisconsin Elections Commission was sternly rebuked for illegally usurping legislative authority during the 2020 election in a recent ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Updated: July 15, 2022 - 11:25pm

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The top Republican in the Wisconsin Senate is warning the state’s elections commission about its new rule for filling out ballots.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, on Thursday said the Wisconsin Elections Commission needs to follow the state law on ballot curing.

“This week, WEC submitted overly broad guidance as an emergency rule instead of basing [that] new rule on the clear underlying statute,” LeMahieu said. “We need clear, unambiguous rules to come through the legislative rulemaking process — rules based on Wisconsin statute, not old WEC guidance.”

The WEC was sternly rebuked for illegally usurping legislative authority in the 2020 election in a recent ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Curing is when an election clerk fills in missing information on a ballot. The commission told local election managers back in February that they can use their judgment as to when they should complete a ballot as opposed to tossing it aside — even if they don’t actually speak to the voter.

“If clerks are able to discern any missing information from outside sources, clerks are not required to contact the voter before making that correction directly to the absentee certificate envelope,” February’s guidance from WEC read.

LeMahieu said lawmakers, not the staff members at the Elections Commission, make Wisconsin’s election law.

“Having precision and clarity in our rules is the only way we can ensure every clerk in the state follows election law to the letter,” LeMahieu said.

In 2016, WEC issued guidance stating that clerks could cure perceived deficiencies of absentee certificate envelopes, sometimes without even contacting the voter. In January of this year, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules ordered WEC to withdraw that guidance or follow the process to formalize that guidance.

LeMahieu said if the Elections commission doesn’t follow the law, lawmakers are ready to come back to the Capitol and force their hand.

“I’ve already talked to JCRAR Co-chair Steve Nass about addressing this urgent election integrity issue,” LeMahieu said, referring to the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules. “He is ready to convene the committee next week and put a stop to this unlawful, overly broad rule immediately.”