Federal Court Order Affects Spring Election – Absentee Ballot Request and Receipt Deadlines Extended COVID-19


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Wisconsin County Clerks
Wisconsin Municipal Clerks
City of Milwaukee Election Commission
Milwaukee County Election Commission


Meagan Wolfe, Administrator
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Clerk comm re. DNC ruling 4.2.20.pdf 163.29 KB
2020 04 02 ORDER.pdf 324.93 KB

UPDATE:  On the evening of April 3 the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order removing the option for an absentee voter to submit a statement indicating they were unable to obtain a witness signature, in lieu of including a witness signature on the certificate envelope.  Therefore, effective immediately, all voters must have a witness signature on their ballot for it to be counted.  All discussion of this exemption in other WEC materials, memos, and webinars related to this option which had been authorized by the decision of the District Court is now outdated and should be ignored.

This afternoon, Judge William Conley of the Western District of Wisconsin federal court has issued an order related to absentee ballots for next week’s Spring Election and Presidential Preference Primary.  The Court ordered the following:

1)    The deadline for the receipt of absentee ballots is extended to 4:00 p.m. on Monday, April 13, 2020.  The Court specifically did not add a requirement for a postmarked-by deadline as long as the ballot is returned by the new deadline.

2)    The deadline for receipt of absentee ballot requests by mail, fax or email (and if deemed administratively feasible in the sole discretion of the WEC Administrator, online) is extended to 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 3, 2020.  

3)    A witness signature on the absentee ballot certificate envelope is not required if the absentee voter provides a written affirmation or other statement that they were unable to safely obtain a witness certification despite reasonable attempts to do so, provided the ballot is otherwise valid.

Judge Conley’s decision was issued in a set of three federal lawsuits which were consolidated and which requested various remedies related to the Spring Election.  The decision did not grant other requests such as postponing the election date or suspending and photo ID requirements for mail-in absentee voters.  A copy of the decision is attached.

The Elections Commission will meet this evening to discuss specific procedures related to the order.  Additional guidance will be provided by tomorrow morning.