Certain print vendors currently under contract with Wisconsin counties have expressed concerns to county clerks regarding possible delays in delivering printed ballots prior to upcoming deadlines. This memorandum will provide necessary context and recommendations. It is, however, important to note that local counsel should be immediately consulted if there are concerns that delivery will not be timely.
Please also consider that the timeline for this election has not deviated from past cycles, and statutory obligations remain intact. Counties should also note that, despite assertions by certain vendors to the contrary, the Wisconsin Elections Commission (“Commission”) did not certify ballot access late this year. The Commission met publicly on Friday, June 10, 2022, to approve ballot access, and the certification was sent out immediately following that meeting. The 2020 ballot access meeting also occurred on June 10th, and the 2018 meeting was held on June 11th.
Statutory Deadline to Provide Ballots to Local Officials:
Under the provisions of Wis. Stat. § 7.10(3)(a), “The county clerk shall distribute the ballots to the municipal clerks no later than 48 days before each partisan primary and general election and no later than 22 days before each other primary and election, except that the clerk shall distribute the ballots under sub. (2) for the presidential preference primary no later 48 days before the presidential preference primary. Election forms prepared by the commission shall be distributed at the same time...”
The deadline for distribution of ballot materials to local clerks this year is no later than the end of day on Wednesday, June 22nd. The Commission does not have the authority to extend that deadline beyond the date required by statute for any county clerks that have not received the materials from print vendors prior to that point, or to provide specific exemptions of any kind. It is recommended that county clerks immediately communicate any concerns to local officials and seek advice from corporation counsel, particularly if there is valid reason to believe materials will not arrive in time to be distributed. Minimal compliance efforts may include further attempts to obtain delivery of ballot materials prior to the deadline, ensuring vendors first provide absentee ballot materials in a timely manner, or possibly exploring options of last resort such as sending paper copies of ballots printed locally or in your office (Note: locally printed ballots would later need to be remade in accordance with Wis. Stat. § 5.85(3)). If you are not able to deliver official paper ballots to your municipalities by June 22nd, you will need to, at minimum, provide them with PDF or electronic versions of the ballot by the deadline so that they may begin fulfilling requests on June 23rd.
All county clerks should also contact their print vendors, if that has not already happened, to obtain written confirmation that ballots will be delivered in time to comply with statute. Corporation counsel may also wish to review any print contracts to see if service levels, key performance indicators, or other protections were agreed upon to ensure timely delivery. Clerks and counsel may wish to begin discussions with print vendors now to ensure similar issues do not arise prior to the November 2022 General Election.
Military and Overseas Absentee Deadlines:
Please review the Commission’s recent communication, “Military and Permanent Overseas Absentee Deadlines - August 9, 2022 Partisan Primary.” The information is published here.
It is important to note that municipal clerks will need to mail certain UOCAVA ballots as soon as Thursday, June 23, 2022 (e.g. for voter requests that were submitted on or before that date) to comply with the state deadline enumerated in Wis. Stat. § 7.15(1)(cm). The federal deadline for this election follows shortly after the state, on June 25, 2022.
Military, Temporary Overseas and Permanent Overseas voters may request to receive their ballot via email or fax and clerks are required to honor those requests. Military and Permanent Overseas voters may also request to receive their ballot online via the MyVote Wisconsin website (myvote.wi.gov).
Clerks should explore UOCAVA compliance options with local counsel, but minimal compliance efforts may include providing the PDF copy of the ballot to military and overseas voters on time. As a reminder, the USDOJ administers the compliance provisions of UOCAVA and may pursue a consent decree or other legal remedies if ballot mailing deadlines are not met.
The Commission intends to send out a scheduled communication today to municipal clerks as well. If you have any questions, or anticipate any problems meeting UOCAVA or other ballot deadlines, please contact the WEC Help Desk at @email.