WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, Sept. 29, Rise — a student-led nonprofit focused on empowering and mobilizing college students and youth voters — filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit recently filed by Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections — a conservative group — on behalf of a voter. The suit challenges the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s (WEC) absentee ballot spoiling guidance (spoiling is the process by which a ballot that has been marked incorrectly is destroyed and disqualified from being counted). The challenged WEC guidance allows voters to ask to spoil their absentee ballots and permits voters to receive a new absentee ballot if they make a mistake when filling their ballot, find that their ballot is damaged, change their mind after returning an absentee ballot or opt to vote in person instead. In the complaint, the plaintiff argues that this guidance violates Wisconsin law, under which municipal clerks allegedly lack the authority to spoil a ”previously completed and returned absentee ballot by the elector who was issued the absentee ballot.” The plaintiff asserts that only voters may spoil their own absentee ballots and return them to the clerk before filling out a new one. Accordingly, the plaintiff asks the court to prohibit clerks from spoiling and/or returning previously completed and returned absentee ballots voters and asks that the court require WEC to withdraw its guidance.
In seeking to intervene in the case, Rise asserts that the lawsuit’s request to nullify WEC’s absentee ballot spoiling guidance would cause “sudden and significant confusion…if it were granted at this late date—just weeks before the upcoming election and with absentee voting already underway—[and] will force Rise to divert significant resources toward educating voters about any changes to the absentee ballot cure process, retool how it helps mobilize voters, and shift its efforts toward getting as many voters as possible to vote in person.” Rise also contends that the plaintiff’s attempt to restrict Wisconsin voters’ options for fixing minor errors on absentee ballots would detract from the organization’s efforts aimed at mobilizing first-time or lower-information voters via get-out-the-vote campaigns.