April 7 election is back on, absentee ballot deadline changed - Election Commission Emergency meeting | WisCommunity

April 7 election is back on, absentee ballot deadline changed - Election Commission Emergency meeting

April 6, 2020 - 5:20pm
Supreme Court Ruling
Supreme Court Ruling

By order of the Wisconsin State Supreme Court the election will take place tomorrow, April 7.  The  court put out an order minutes ago invalidating Gov. Evers Executive Order this afternoon to postpone the election. The court left the part of the order intact where the Governor set a special session of the legislature for tomorrow to set a new election date, which seems superfluous since it will take place after the election has already started.  As would have been expected, the more liberal judges Anne Walsh Bradley and Rebecca Dallet dissented on the ruling. Judge Daniel Kelly recused himself as he is running as a candidate in this election. 

Later in the day the US Supreme Court also ruled on the election tomorrow, weighing in on an appeal that had been filed by Republicans in the state. Absentee ballots mailed in must be postmarked by Tuesday, April 7. Absentee ballots handed in directly to the clerk's office must arrive by poll closing time on April 7. The previous court order on the election would have allowed any ballots to arrive by April 13. Now mailed ballots may arrive by April 13, but must be postmarked before the closing of the polls tomorrow.

Governor Evers made a statement this evening about the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling today:

“There are few things we hold more sacred and that are more American than the right to vote. People have bled, fought, and died for the right to vote in this country. But tomorrow in Wisconsin, thousands will wake up and have to choose between exercising their right to vote and staying healthy and safe. In this time of historic crisis, it is a shame that two branches of government in this state chose to pass the buck instead of taking responsibility for the health and safety of the people we were elected to serve.”

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The Wisconsin Election Commission held two emergency meetings today in an attempt to keep up with all of the changes. Commission Member Knudson recommended attempting to vote during non-peak hours tomorrow and to try to be patient with poll workers who will be working under difficult circumstances. 

Member Spindell wanted to clarify the ruling today from the US Supreme Court made it clear that ballots mailed in must be postmarked by April 7 and that ballots that arrive after the polls closed must be set aside separately in case there is further litigation. After some confusion it is now clear that the National Guard will be helping at the polls tomorrow. 

Member Mark Thomsen made a statement that tens of thousands of ballots that have been cast will not be counted. He made clear that the commission was not a party to the Supreme Court suit. He was outspoken that the state Supreme Court has endangered the safety of voters by overturning the Governor's Executive Rule. He feels there needs to be a count of how many absentee ballots are not counted due to today's rulings.

Member Jacobs - "we are asking voters to choose between democracy and disease". 

Discussion on the executive order in Milwaukee County closing the polls for safety reasons is probably moot at this point since it was contingent on any court ruling. The polls in Milwaukee County will be open tomorrow. All jurisdictions must open their polls tomorrow even if they had a local order otherwise. The clerks will be required to be open tomorrow unless there is yet another court order. At least one poll in each jurisdiction must be open.

Administrator Wolfe was asked for the status of poll workers. 2400 National Guard have reported to help - because of that there are now no polls with a critical shortage of poll workers. There is a remaining pool of over 500 guard resources that may be deployed tomorrow if necessary. There are still only five poll sites in Milwaukee, down from the normal 180. There will undoubtedly be people who will not receive their ballots in time to return them - they will need to vote in person. They will be marked in the poll book as having received a ballot in the mail. If they have returned their ballot they may not be issued a ballot at the poll. As of this morning there are still 12,000 absentee ballots that have been requested and have not yet been sent, though that data may not be completely accurate according to Administrator Meghan Wolfe, because ballots may have been sent but not recorded yet.

Guidance for the clerks is being prepared that anything that is received by 8 PM on election day should be processed on election night. Those that arrive after 8 PM must be put aside and processed on the 13th in anticipation of any litigation that may occur later.  That guidance will be sent to the clerks this evening. It is very unusual to have changes in procedure this late before an election. Clerks will not be releasing any results before 4 PM on the 13th. 

A discussion ensued about whether they can legally defer reporting any votes until the 13th and other alternatives including reporting daily totals as the ballots come in. An alternative would be to do unofficial vote reporting on election night and report official results later. Member Thomsen and Member Knudson read the US Supreme Court decision today differently. Legal counsel joined the public portion of the call to clarify this and his opinion is that the reporting should be delayed until the 13th. 

The issue was raised about mail that does not have a postmark. If the mail does not have a postmark it will not be counted. 

Issues of public guidance:

1. The election day is tomorrow and in-person voting will be offered in all jurisdictions in the state.

2. The mailed absentee ballots must be postmarked by election day and delivered by 4 PM on the 13th. If a ballot is hand-delivered it must be delivered by 8 PM on election day. Jurisdictions will need to make clear what the last time will be that public dropboxes will have a pickup - so in some cases the ballots will need to be delivered to the dropboxes by 7:30 PM or some other time. The dropboxes must be marked as closed after the last pickup. 

In the Eastern District Court, Lena Taylor's lawsuit re: the election was rejected by the court. This just happened this evening. 

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