WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, Aug. 4, the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) unanimously approved changes to the state’s absentee ballot certification envelope that are intended to improve the mail-in process for voters and clerks.
The changes came after the review of statewide feedback from the multiple stakeholders that have to interact with each absentee ballot and its two envelopes including: the clerk who prepares both the carrier envelope and the certification envelope, the voter who completes the ballot and certification, that voter’s chosen witness who completes their portion of the certification, that voter’s chosen assistant (if applicable), the election inspector who reviews the certification envelope and processes it at the polling place and the United States Postal Service, which is responsible for the envelope’s efficient and accurate delivery twice.
Along with added alert graphics to the certification envelope, the new design will also feature a color-coded carrier envelope related to the type of absentee voter, i.e. international, military, indefinitely confined or otherwise.
WEC believes this color-coding will help the state’s more than 1,800 election clerks and their staff keep track of the ballots during the busy election cycle. Eighteen other states, including Georgia and Pennsylvania, already use this color-coding system.
Wisconsin’s absentee ballot has been the subject of multiple lawsuits following razor-thin presidential election margins in 2020 that were within the state’s typical absentee ballot rejection rate. Litigation has included how the ballot is returned, how the witness address is completed and, most recently, who is required to witness the ballot.
Last month, a lawsuit was filed by pro-voting plaintiffs that challenges three of Wisconsin’s rules regulating absentee voting procedures, including the absentee ballot witness requirement. The plaintiffs allege that this requirement burdens the right to vote and violates the Wisconsin Constitution’s right to a secret ballot since witnesses can easily see how voters marked their absentee ballots. According to the complaint, this rule, along with two others, violates the Wisconsin Constitution by treating absentee voting as a “privilege” and not a “right.”