“The statute is very, very clear. If an absentee ballot does not have a witness address on it, it’s not valid.”
Source: Hank Berrien
A new report points out that an executive branch agency called the Wisconsin Election Commission allowed local county election clerks to “fix” ballots by filling in missing addresses for witnesses, and that might have violated a Wisconsin law requiring ballots to have a witness address to be validated.
Wisconsin Statute 6.87(6d) states unequivocally, “If a certificate is missing the address of a witness, the ballot may not be counted.”
But in August, the Wisconsin Elections Commission in August issued a directive stating that a clerk could fill in the address of the voter:
To make sure your ballot is counted, double check the following before you return it: Your voter information: this section is usually completed by your clerk and includes the date of the election, the county and municipality in which you are registered, your name, the address where you are registered, city, and zip code. Voter Signature: you (or your assistant) must sign in the Certification of Voter section. Witness Signature and Address: your witness must sign and provide their full address, (street number, street name, city) in the Certification of Witness section. Make sure your ballot is in your envelope and make sure the envelope is sealed properly.
If any of the required information above is missing, your ballot will not be counted.
In October, the Wisconsin Elections Commission issued a directive to the state’s county clerks that seemed to allow them to fix incomplete (or “spoiled”) ballots missing witness signatures, writing, “Please note that the clerk should attempt to resolve any missing witness address information prior to Election Day if possible and this can be done through reliable information (personal knowledge, voter registration information, through a phone call with the voter or witness). The witness does not need to appear to add a missing address.”
Derek Muller, a professor of law at the Iowa School of Law, told Just The News, “This is a complication thing about elections like this. I’ve seen it in a lot of jurisdictions, what might be sort of a technical violation of the statute, in this case encouragement to county clerks about how to use their judgment on whether or not to cure a ballot.”
Retired Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman told WISN, “The statute is very, very clear. If an absentee ballot does not have a witness address on it, it’s not valid. That ballot is not valid.”
“In defiance of and direct contradiction to the statute, the Wisconsin Elections Commission gave guidance — that is, cover —to all 72 county clerks and turned the statute on his head,” said Gableman. “They said, ‘Gee, we know the law says an absentee ballot without the witness address is not valid, but county clerk, you have a duty to go ahead and look up on your own the witness’ address if there’s no address on the absentee ballot.’”