WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, Oct. 28, the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) withdrew its absentee ballot spoiling guidance that permitted voters to ask election officials to spoil (meaning discard and disqualify) their returned (meaning already cast and counted) absentee ballots and receive new ones if they change their minds or opt to vote in person instead. This comes after conservatives filed a lawsuit to temporarily suspend the guidance for allegedly violating Wisconsin law. On Oct. 7, a Wisconsin judge ruled in favor of the conservative plaintiffs and issued an order stating that WEC is temporarily “prohibited from advising, guiding, instructing, publishing, or otherwise communicating information related to spoiling absentee ballots and/or returning absentee ballots to electors.” Following an appeal of the Oct. 7 decision, an appellate court temporarily paused the trial court’s decision, thereby temporarily reinstating WEC’s absentee ballot spoiling guidance. On Oct. 27, the same appellate court lifted (meaning reversed) the stay of the trial court’s Oct. 7 temporary injunction order, after which WEC officially rescinded its absentee ballot spoiling guidance pending “further appeals and a final determination” in the lawsuit.
Ultimately, this means that WEC’s absentee ballot spoiling guidance is no longer in effect for the upcoming midterm elections. As a result, Wisconsin voters will not be able to spoil their previously returned absentee ballots in the Nov. 8 election, but will still be able to spoil their uncounted absentee ballots if they make a mistake or receive a damaged ballot. Notably, Wisconsin election officials recommend that voters submit their requests to spoil uncounted absentee ballots in writing or via email so as to ensure that there is a documented record of such requests.