Wisconsin Election Commission deadlock over clerks correcting errors | local government

Wisconsin’s bipartisan Election Commission deadlocked on Wednesday over whether municipal election clerks should continue to be able to fill in missing information on envelopes containing mail-in ballots.

Republicans are targeting guidelines issued by the commission since President Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in 2020 by just under 21,000 votes. There have been calls from Republican lawmakers, gubernatorial candidates and Republican election investigator Michael Gableman to disband the commission, a move opposed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. R-Rochester.

Trump on Tuesday endorsed Gableman’s recommendation to disband the commission.

One of the main targets of Republicans is the directive the commission first issued in 2016, which allows election clerks to correct omissions and errors in witness addresses on mail-in ballot envelopes without contact the witness or voter.

In January, the commission agreed to a 4-2 vote to adopt a temporary rule, valid for six months, which followed existing guidelines. On Wednesday, the commission was deadlocked on whether to make the rule permanent.

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The three Democrats on the committee voted in favor, while the three Republicans voted against. They also hit a dead end in pursuit of a rule that would have required clerks to contact voters before filling in missing information. All Republicans voted for, while Democrats were against.

The Democratic commissioners argued that allowing clerks to fill in missing information would ensure people’s ballots aren’t rejected for minor errors. But Republicans have said voting by mail is a privilege, not a right, and comes with risks.

Democratic Commissioner Julie Glancey said voters housebound due to disability or age would be further disadvantaged if their ballots were not counted.

“That’s just wrong,” she said.

Republican Commissioner Marge Bostelmann said voters should be told first and that should ensure they don’t repeat the mistake.

“I don’t think it’s that difficult,” she said of properly filling out the ballot certificate envelope, which requires a witness’ signature and address.

Democratic Commissioner Mark Thomsen accused the commission of “throwing away” the issue when it should instead make it as easy as possible for voters to vote.

Republican Commissioner Bob Spindell said it made sense for the commission to wait for further guidance from the legislature.

“People have to be careful,” he said of mail-in voting. “I don’t believe people aren’t able to follow instructions.”

Last year, the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Office reviewed 14,710 absentee ballot certificates in 29 municipalities and found that 1,022 certificates (6.9%) were missing portions of witness addresses, 15 (0 .1%) had no witness address at all, eight (less than 0.1%) had no witness signature and three (less than 0.1%) had no voter signature .

A Wisconsin State Journal review of thousands of ballots in the Democratic Madison and Dodge County areas that were strongly in favor of Trump revealed a number of small but predictable errors on the part of witnesses and voters, such as listing addresses but not zip, city or state codes, or putting the address on the wrong line. In many cases, clerks corrected errors and approved ballots.


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