Election lawsuits impact rules for clerks and voters ahead of Nov. General Election

Election 2022
Published: Oct. 25, 2022 at 5:21 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Tuesday marks the first day of early, in-person absentee voting in clerks’ offices around Wisconsin.

In Wausau, City Clerk Kaitlyn Bernarde said she anticipates roughly 600 people to participate in the two-week period ahead of Election Day. Eligible voters can cast ballots at booths set up in the lobby at City Hall during business hours Monday through Friday until Nov. 4. It is also hosting early voting hours on Nov. 5 from 8 a.m. to noon in the same location.

Election 2022

Election lawsuits filed have caused changes for voters ahead of the November general election. A judge ruled last month that clerks cannot correct mistakes on ballot envelopes for voters. Clerks can still reach out to voters to notify them of mistakes and encourage correction.

Wausau sent out about 4,000 absentee ballots and received more than 2,000 back so far. Bernarde explained they have a dedicated team of people working to contact voters who return ballots with these issues.

“We’ve had over 100 ballots come back that it’s missing something that needs to be corrected,” Bernarde said Tuesday. “We’ve been able to get in contact with the majority of them, but there are still a few where we don’t have contact information for because it’s not required to have a phone number or email address. But if you’re registering to vote, we strongly encourage that you do so we can contact you in case there’s something wrong to make sure your ballot gets counted.”

She said there are about 20 individuals they have not been able to get a hold of to notify about the issues. She encourages absentee voters to check MyVote.wi.gov so they can track their ballot and see whether the ballot had mistakes.

Depending upon the mistakes, she said the voter can come in with their witness to correct the issues, or the voter can request the ballot be spoiled and issued a new ballot.

Another lawsuit filed in Waukesha is arguing that spoiling ballots is illegal in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Elections Commissioned issued guidance ahead of the August Primary about how voters can spoil ballots after several candidates dropped out of the race close to Election Day.

Former attorney general, now Judge Brad Schimel issued an injunction order earlier this month, siding with the GOP-backed group that helped to file the lawsuit. This would stop voters from canceling their original ballot that has been cast and received by the clerk’s office and issuing a new one. However, a few days later, a state appeals court judge sided with the WEC to stay Judge Schimel’s order until it determines whether to take up the case. Clerks are having to manage the constant changes as the WEC limits its guidance.

“We do not-- cannot spoil ballots that have already been returned to our office to be counted” Bernarde stated. “So, if it’s good to go, nothing missing on there, that ballot would be counted on Election Day. We can still spoil a ballot if a voter receives it and they, you know, mess up on it, something gets spilled on it or torn, we can still spoil that ballot and issue them a new one.”

Voters need to request the ballot be spoiled and Bernarde noted while clerks can take notes to document the request, they prefer that request be in writing so there is written documentation straight from the voter. The best way, she said would be via email.

The last day to request an absentee ballot by mail is Nov. 3.