Additional Rulings Impacting the Elections
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the evening of April 3 that absentee ballots must be postmarked by April 4 in order to be counted in Wisconsin’s spring election. Read the decision.
The afternoon of April 3, the WI Supreme Court overturned Governor Evers’ order pushing back in-person voting until June, putting the spring election back on. Read the decision.
April 2, 2020 U.S. District Ruling on the April 7 Election
Updated: Elections Commission Issues Guidance Memos on Recent Court Decisions Concerning Conducting Spring Election During COVID-19 Pandemic
Due to a decision the evening of April 3, Wisconsin Election Commission staff issued the following memos to municipal clerks clarifying recent court decisions regarding the April 7 spring election and posted them on WEC’s website:
U.S. District Judge Conley’s Ruling (PDF) April 2, 2020
United States District Judge William Conley issued a decision April 2 regarding the April 7 election. In his decision, Judge Conley took the Governor and state legislature to task for not postponing the election in the face of the emergency health crisis, but declined to postpone the election himself on the ground that it was not appropriate for a federal judge to delay a state election. Although the election will take place on April 7th as scheduled, Judge Conley’s decision does three important things:
1) Extends the deadline for requesting absentee ballots until 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 3rd.
2) Extends the deadline for receiving and counting absentee ballots until 4:00 p.m. on April 13th.
3) Enjoins enforcement of the witness requirement on absentee ballots for those persons who provide a written statement or affirmation that they were unable to safely obtain a witness signature despite reasonable efforts to do so.
An order issued April 3 by Judge Conley in response to clarification sought by the Wisconsin Elections Commission and its staff clarifies two important matters:
1) Election results are NOT to be reported until after April 13th at 4:00 or as soon thereafter as votes can be tabulated; and
2) The witness signature requirement is enjoined for any absentee voter who, prior to their ballot being tabulated, provides a written affirmation or other statement that they were unable to safely obtain a witness signature despite reasonable efforts to do so. The order advises clerks to implement this using the ordinary practice for correcting defective absentee certificate envelopes.
Election Safe Practices Survey
Steps municipalities are taking to keep voters, poll workers and staff safe during the Spring Election. Thanks to everyone who provided their great ideas. The responses from the survey of municipal clerks conducted by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities the week of 3/23--3/27 are here.
Steps municipalities are taking to recruit poll workers
The list is a compilation of responses the League of Wisconsin Municipalities received from a survey of municipal clerks the week of March 23-27. It can be found here. Updated April 3, 2020
Wisconsin Elections Commission Issues Multiple Guidance Memos on Conducting the Spring Election During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Over the weekend, Wisconsin Election Commission staff issued several memos to municipal clerks on how to best conduct the spring election in the midst of a pandemic. The public health guidance packet for elections is posted on WEC’s website and includes the following:
Checklist. This checklist was developed with the advice of a public health official to outline processes for conducting Election Day voting safely for voters and poll workers. Please review the checklist and incorporate these practices into your Election Day planning.
Poll Worker Health Screener. The public health official advising the WEC has suggested that on Election Day poll workers be screened to ensure that they can safely work. Attached you will find the screening questions to ask to poll workers. You may either choose to have each poll worker fill out the screener or post the screener and ask poll workers to read the questions and answer them.
Polling Place Signage. As is discussed in the attached checklist, it is advised that you place signs on the entrance and in relevant spots in the polling place to advise voters of procedures and enforce social distancing standards. Again, these signs were developed with the advice of a public health official. We will also be distributing printed signs to each county to be distributed to municipalities along with other supplies.
Hospitalized Electors. At its March 27 meeting, the Commission voted to expand the definition of hospitalized elector to include voters in quarantine. We also worked with a public health official to discuss the recommended process to conduct the hospitalized elector process with quarantined voters. This memo to clerks outlines the recommended process and explains the expanded definition.
Curbside/ Drive-Through Procedures. Clerks have asked for guidance on how to conduct curbside voting in accordance with health guidance for those who are not able to enter the polling place. There have also been jurisdictions who have asked for advisement on how to conduct outdoor or “drive-through” voting. This memo to clerks outlines the recommended process and provides public heath procedures.
Absentee Witness Requirement. Clerks and voters have also asked for guidance on how absentee voters can have their ballot witnessed in accordance with public health guidance. This memo to clerks outlines the recommended process and provide suggested options for voters who are having difficulty meeting the witness requirement.
Election Worker Training Resources
The Local Government Center (LGC) at UW-Extension has created a ninety-minute election training that clerks can use to train new election workers. This training is free to any clerk that wishes to use it. Melissa Kono, County Extension Educator in Clark and Trempealeau Counties, created the training presentation and materials. Victoria Solomon, Green County Extension Educator, assisted with the training presentation and developed the Recruiting materials.
The resources are available on the LGC website so that a clerk can download it to use as required. These materials follow the Wisconsin Election Commission training guidelines. An individual can watch on their home computer or a computer at the local government office. The training is a recorded ZOOM webinar, accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation.
Election Worker Recruitment:
The Local Government Center has also developed resources that include a sample recruitment pitch (PDF) for clerks to use to recruit new election workers.
What’s Considered “indefinitely confined” for absentee voting purposes?
Some County clerks in the state, mainly in Dane County and Milwaukee Counties, have started allowing absentee voters to put “indefinitely confined” on their ballots and then not requiring the voter to submit an ID with their ballot. In response, Sen. Majority Leader Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Vos asked the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) for a memo on the following questions: 1.) Whether the clerks in counties like Dane and Milwaukee could legally encourage voters to request absentee ballots as “indefinitely confined;” 2.) What consequences, if any, would these clerks face for issuing statements that encourage voters to request absentee ballots as “indefinitely confined;” and, 3.) What consequences, if any, would voters face if they requested and received an absentee ballot as “indefinitely confined,” including whether those ballots would potentially be invalidated by the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) or a judge. The LRB Memo on this question is here. March 26, 2020
Wisconsin Election Commission Guidance
Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) COVID-19 Information For Voters And Election Officials
(This takes you to the WEC page which will be kept updated.)
WEC FAQs on Absentee Envelope Issues and Options COVID-19
Wisconsin Elections Commission’s Latest Actions Regarding Spring Election Preparedness (March 18 Meeting)
On March 18 the Wisconsin Elections Commission met and authorized WEC staff to spend up to $200,000 on additional supplies needed for absentee voting, including envelopes and labels. WEC staff has located a supplier of envelopes and plans to purchase 500,000 more for distribution to municipalities that need them.
The commission took the following additional actions regarding the April 7 Spring election:
--WEC staff is directed to develop best practices related to minimizing potential viral transmission during election processes.
--WEC urgently requests the Governor and DHS to help secure a supply of hand sanitizer and other sanitation resources for our clerks and polling places.
--WEC encourages clerks to recruit and train additional poll workers in advance of the election.
--WEC encourages all Wisconsin voters to request an absentee ballot thru MyVote.WI.gov and to return the ballot by mail.
--WEC directs all municipal clerks to accommodate in-person absentee voting and registration as required by state law making any changes needed based on local circumstances to the location, hours and processes used.
COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) and Guidance on Procedural Changes for Care Facility Absentee Voting and Polling Place Relocation (Updated) https://elections.wi.gov/node/6718
WEC FAQs on Absentee Envelope Issues and Options COVID-19 -- 3/18/2020 https://elections.wi.gov/node/6733
WEC Supplemental FAQs on Absentee Voting and COVID-19 – UPDATED 3/18/2020 https://elections.wi.gov/node/6722