Lawsuit filed in state court by Republican voters and the Republican Party of Waukesha County against the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) challenging the legality of WEC’s guidance directing clerks to fill in missing information (using red ink) on absentee ballot certificate envelopes. Under Wisconsin law, absentee ballots must be accompanied by a witness certificate proving that the voter completed their absentee ballot in the presence of a witness. In relation to this requirement, the WEC issued guidance allowing election officials to fill in any missing information (such as an incomplete address) on these certificates if they can find reliable information. Other WEC guidance instructs officials to avoid contacting voters or witnesses to fix any absentee ballot defects if the officials can “reasonably discern” information to fill in. The plaintiffs challenge this WEC guidance for violating Wisconsin law, claiming that they are “harmed” by this method of processing absentee ballots. The lawsuit asks the court to bar election officials from changing or adding information on absentee ballot certificate envelopes and require election officials to return deficient absentee ballot witness certifications directly to voters for correction.
On Sept. 7, a preliminary injunction hearing was held, after which a judge ruled from the bench that clerks cannot fill in missing information on absentee ballot certificate envelopes for the upcoming November elections. Clerks may, but are not required to, notify voters that their witnesses can correct address deficiencies on absentee ballot envelopes. Litigation is ongoing.
On Sept. 13, the WEC withdrew its guidance that allowed clerks or election officials to fill in missing address information on absentee ballot witness certificates.