Wisconsin official: Voters must mail their own absentee ballots | National policy

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Wisconsin’s chief electoral officer said Thursday that voters in Wisconsin must send their own mail-in ballots and cannot have someone do it for them, adding to the confusion about whether elderly and disabled people would break the law if they received help.

The remarks by Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe came after the state Supreme Court on Friday issued a ruling banning mail-in ballot boxes. The judges ruled that only the voter can return an absentee ballot to the local clerks in person.

The court, however, did not specify who can send absentee ballots by mail. Wisconsin law states that voters must mail their ballots. Federal law, however, allows non-voters to place disability ballots through the mail.

The electoral commission, made up of three Republicans and three Democrats, couldn’t agree during a meeting on Tuesday on the orientations to be given to the clerks.

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During a question-and-answer session with reporters on Thursday, Wolfe was asked what she would tell voters to reduce confusion. Wolfe said voters should seek advice from their local clerks, but added that “at this time, the voter is the one who should send in the ballot.”

She said election officials were concerned about voter confusion, but it wouldn’t be “appropriate” for her to express any other thoughts beyond what the state Supreme Court said. .

Barbara Beckert, director of external policy for Disability Rights Wisconsin, pointed out that federal law protects the right of people with disabilities to get help mailing their ballot and to have someone they choose deliver it to their clerk or polling station and the decision of the state Supreme Court. didn’t change that.

“If a voter with a disability needs someone else to mail in their ballot, they should feel comfortable doing so,” Beckert said.

Election Commission spokesman Riley Vetterkind said later Thursday that Wolfe was not making a policy statement, but simply explaining what state law says.

Republicans have claimed that others mailing absentee ballots on behalf of voters, a practice known as ballot harvesting, are rife with fraud, although there is no evidence of that in Wisconsin.

Separately on Thursday, Republican lawmakers asked the Legislative Rules Committee to kill the committee’s attempt to allow clerks to fill in missing information on mail-in ballot envelopes.

The commission issued guidelines in 2016 allowing poll clerks to correct omissions and errors in witness addresses on mail-in ballot envelopes without contacting the witness or voter.

The GOP took aim at the guidelines after Joe Biden won the state in 2020, demanding that the commission develop emergency rules codifying the guidelines. The commission voted in January to draft the guidelines as an emergency rule.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Tyler August sent a letter to the chairs of the rules committee on Thursday saying the rule is being enforced and the committee should delete it.

They wrote that under state law, if an envelope is missing a witness address, it doesn’t count. LeMahieu said in a statement that Senate rules committee co-chairman Steve Naas had agreed to convene the panel next week.

“We saw what election officials did when they were given an inch of leeway when administering election laws,” LeMahieu said. “No more.”

LeMahieu, Vos and August all face leading opponents who have complained the GOP hasn’t done enough to bolster election security since Biden’s victory.

Vetterkind, the commission’s spokesman, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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