A Wisconsin appeals court and a circuit judge this week shot down attempts backed by liberals seeking orders that local election clerks must accept absentee ballots that contain partial addresses of witnesses.
The rulings come within days of Tuesday’s election and as more than 503,000 absentee ballots have already either been returned or cast in person.
Wisconsin elections have been conducted, and absentee ballots counted, the past 56 years without a legally binding definition of what constitutes a witness address on a ballot, Colas wrote in his order.
“Since then, until the present, clerks have been legally free to interpret the term,” he said. They have done that in good faith, Colas said, drawing on non-binding guidance from the Wisconsin Elections Commission, its predecessors, and advice from attorneys.
Current guidance from the Wisconsin Elections Commission is that an address must include three elements: a street number, street name and municipality. Rise, Inc., a group that works to get young people to vote, argued that election clerks across Wisconsin are not consistently using that definition.
The ruling is correct. The WEC does not make law. They give guidance and it is up to the local clerks to interpret the statutes for themselves.
But the ruling is not a victory for people who support election integrity (conservatives). It means that clerks in liberal bastions like Milwaukee and Madison will waive all sorts of absentee ballots through irrespective of what is on the envelope and clerks in conservative areas will be sticklers.
This is not for the court, however, to fix. Hopefully the legislature will take up the task of ensuring uniform voting laws throughout the state.