Jeramey Jannene

Absentee Ballots Again Must Arrive By Election Day

Also, court rules that poll workers also must come from the county they vote in.

By - Oct 8th, 2020 04:17 pm
Returned ballots for the November 2020 election. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Returned ballots for the November 2020 election. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A federal appeals court blocked a lower court ruling Thursday, restoring a state law that requires all ballots to be in possession of clerks by 8 p.m. on election day.

A September ruling from federal judge William Conley allowed ballots to be postmarked by election day and received up to six days later.

The appeals court originally ruled that the plaintiff — the Wisconsin State Legislature — did not have standing to contest the ruling. But the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that they did, returning the issue to the federal court.

The latest decision could be appealed to the United States Supreme Court. Restricting the ballot delivery timeline is viewed as a win for Republicans and a loss for Democrats.

“This ruling is a huge win for preserving the integrity of our election process in Wisconsin,” said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) in a statement. “Elections are decided on Election Day, period.”

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley called the ruling “unfortunate” and said it was important that all votes are counted.

“I think it does a huge disservice to our residents when we have courts issuing order after order,” said Mayor Tom Barrett.

One of the three appeals court judges appears to share that sentiment.

“Today, in the midst of a pandemic and significantly slowed mail delivery, this court leaves voters to their own devices,” wrote dissenting Judge Ilana Rovner. “Good luck and G-d bless, Wisconsin. You are going to need it.”

Judges Frank Easterbrook and Amy St. Eve voted to block Conley’s ruling. All three appeals court judges were appointed by Republican Presidents.

Voters looking to ensure their absentee ballot is received and counted are encouraged by Milwaukee officials, including Barrett and election commission executive director Claire Woodall-Vogg, not to delay in requesting or returning it.

Voters can return an absentee ballot to one of 15 drop boxes in Milwaukee or place them in the mail. Absentee ballots cannot be returned to a polling place on election day and must be placed in a drop box. The status of a returned ballot can be tracked on the state’s My Vote WI website.

Those choosing to vote in person on election day or vote early via in-person absentee voting are not impacted by the latest change. The decision only impacts absentee ballots.

The back-and-forth rulings largely mirror a similar situation that played out before the April election.

Poll Worker Impact

A decision on where poll workers can come from could impact the city’s ability to staff polling places. Referencing the COVID-19 pandemic and difficulties with the April election, Conley also allowed poll workers to work in counties in which they do not vote.

The City of Milwaukee needs at least 2,500 poll workers to staff 173 polling sites and a central count facility on election day. It fell far short of that in April, when the city had the worst coronavirus outbreak in the state, resulting in only five central polling places being open in addition to the absentee counting operation.

The city has recruited 3,500 workers already, a move designed to ensure no shortage is encountered because of people failing to complete the training process or not showing up on election day.

Woodall-Vogg did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication on the number of poll workers that are now ineligible to work for the city as a result of the latest ruling.

A full copy of the ruling can be found on Urban Milwaukee.

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Categories: Politics

One thought on “Absentee Ballots Again Must Arrive By Election Day”

  1. blurondo says:

    Bit by bit, day by day, both locally and nationally, the foundation of democracy is being eroded by the minority party.

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