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Wisconsin election officials adopt new absentee ballot policy

Poll workers sorting ballots Associated Press/Photo by Wong Maye-E

Wisconsin election officials adopt new absentee ballot policy

The state election commission voted 5-1 on Thursday to comply with court orders and accept absentee ballots with only a partial or incomplete address for a witness. Wisconsin law requires voters to turn in absentee ballots with a witness’s signature and address. Over 1,800 local clerks across the state may now accept ballots with a witness’s address missing the state name and ZIP code as long as it includes the street number, street name, and municipality. Witnesses may also write “same as voter” or “ditto” with an arrow or quotation marks indicating their address is the same as the voter’s address. The previous policy required clerks to follow up individually with witnesses to correct ballots with incomplete addresses before the vote could be counted.

Where did the court orders come from? The court orders stem from legal cases brought by the liberal group Rise Inc. and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. The Republican-controlled Legislature and the conservative group Priorities USA are challenging the cases.

How many ballots would this policy affect? The new policy’s effect could be influential, given Wisconsin’s status as a battleground state. The Wisconsin State Legislative Audit Bureau reports nearly seven percent of votes out of the nearly 15,000 absentee ballot samples reviewed in the 2020 election across 29 municipalities were missing a witness address. Fewer than 23,000 votes decided each of the last two presidential elections in Wisconsin.

Dig deeper: From the WORLD archives, read Harvest Prude’s report on the Trump team’s failure to prove election fraud.

Christina Grube

Christina Grube is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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