Virus Outbreak Wisconsin Election

In this Wednesday, March 18, 2020, photo, early voters cast their ballots at the Zeidler Municipal Building in Milwaukee. Wisconsin Legislature's top Republicans told Democratic county clerks on Friday, March 27, to stop telling people they can mark themselves as indefinitely confined to get around photo ID requirements for absentee ballots, saying the governor's stay-at-home order isn't a lockdown. Wisconsin voters can request absentee ballots online, but they must upload a photo ID with the application. Voters who are indefinitely confined are exempt from the photo ID requirement.

(The Center Square) – The back-and-forth over ballot harvesting in Wisconsin is ongoing. 

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty sent an open letter to the Wisconsin Election Commission requesting another clarification about who can return absentee ballots. 

WILL pressed the question about ballot harvesting earlier this month when WILL President Rick Esenberg asked for a formal clarification. State law suggests that only voters can return their ballots. 

On Monday, WILL said the WEC told local election managers earlier this spring that that is not the case. 

"I am writing to you regarding the Absentee Ballot Return Options Memo you sent to municipal clerks dated March 31, 2020. In the Memo, in paragraph 2 you say: Ballots can be returned to the clerk’s office, an in-person absentee (or early voting) site or the voter’s polling on election day. A family member or another person may also return the ballot on behalf of the voter," WILL's latest letter to the commission stated.

"This statement is in conflict with the law. In particular, Wis. Stat. § 6.87(4)(b)1 provides that electors must place their ballot in an envelope and follow certain procedures," the letter continues.

The letter from WILL Deputy Counsel Lucas Vebber continued: "[State] statute obviously means that the elector shall mail it, or the elector shall deliver it 'in person,'" Vebber wrote. "There is no statutory basis to permit a third person to mail it or to take possession of the ballot to deliver it in person."

WILL, and many other conservatives, have taken a new interest in ballot harvesting and absentee voting. 

Wisconsin is planning a massive absentee ballot push in November. The Wisconsin Election Commission voted earlier this spring to send absentee ballot applications to 2.7 million voters in the state. 

Last week, the question about ballot harvesting and its potential for voter fraud split the WEC

"We don't have an emergency," Democratic Commissioner Mark Thomsen said at the WEC's meeting last week. "We know that it is an issue that needs to be addressed by the legislature, if at all."

Vebber and WILL are asking for another clarification on ballot harvesting, and making an Open Records request for any conversations that commissioners have had about the issue. 

The Center Square Correspondent

An industry veteran with two decades of experience in media, Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square.