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Wisconsin Lawmakers Advance Bill to Stop Election Workers From Fixing Mistakes on Ballots

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion


Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin are aiming to stop election workers from fixing mistakes on absentee ballots.

The Assembly’s Committee on Campaigns and Elections on Wednesday advanced a plan, Assembly Bill 198, that would clarify that only voters or their witnesses can correct a mistake on an absentee ballot.

“Because [absentee voting] is a privilege, there’s got to be some responsibility that the voter has to exercise that privilege. And I think that responsibility is to do it right and legally,” said state Republican Rep. Donna Rozar.

Republican lawmakers say absentee ballot curing, the technical term for fixing mistakes on ballots, is one of the areas of concern from the November 2020 election.

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Election workers cured many more ballots last fall than ever before.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission confirmed this in its post-election report.

“The statewide absentee ballot rejection rate was exceptionally low in November – 0.2% statewide compared to 1.8% in April 2020,” the commission wrote in January.

The new proposal spells out that election clerks must contact the voter if they made a mistake, or the witness if they made a mistake in filling out their portion of the absentee ballot. Only the voter or the witness can correct those mistakes.

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Democrats on the Elections Committee say the change will mean some legally cast ballots won’t be counted.

“I don’t care if absentee voting is a privilege. That doesn’t mean you should have to pass a test or make sure that you dot every I and cross every T,” said Rep. Lisa Subek, D-Madison. “If someone makes an innocent, honest mistake, it is appalling that we’re not going to then let their ballot count.”

Elections Committee chief Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, said the tightening of the rules for who can fix mistakes on absentee ballots does not infringe on anyone’s right to vote.

“Election Day is a right, and early voting is still a privilege,” Brandtjen said.

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The proposal now heads for a vote in the full Assembly, but also a likely veto from Gov. Tony Evers.

The governor has said for months he will not sign any new laws that “make it tougher” for people to vote.

The investigations into the 2020 presidential election are not done and now a top Republican legislator in Wisconsin is getting involved.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said that he hired three retired police officers to begin an investigation, which will be overseen by an attorney.

He said the investigation will be given a broad mandate and that the investigators will review tips about the election and will follow up on those that are the most credible.

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The retired police officers will have subpoena power and anyone that they subpoena will be immune from prosecution.

Vos believes that the investigators will be able to provide him with a report by the fall.

He said he is more interested in finding laws that should be changed rather than finding those who violated the law.

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