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Ballot curing ban: What Wisconsin absentee voters need to know to make sure their ballot is counted

For the past six years, municipal election clerks were able to fill in missing witness address information on absentee ballot envelopes.
Absentee envelope and Milwaukee reminder.jpg
Posted at 4:56 PM, Sep 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-09 19:19:51-04

MILWAUKEE — ‘Ballot curing’ is now banned in Wisconsin less than two months away from the November election. A judge ruled this week that the practice that had been allowed by the Wisconsin Elections Commission since 2016 violates state law.

For the past six years, municipal election clerks were able to fill in missing witness address information on absentee ballot envelopes. The ruling means that if the information isn’t corrected in time by the voter, the ballot will not be counted.

Absentee ballots start going out for the general election in less than two weeks. This time, it’s going to be more important than ever for voters to double-check their ballot envelopes before sending them back.

“It's so simple but you can, you can miss a line,” said Milwaukee voter Donald Griffin.

WATCH: Ben Jordan explains ballot curing

Ben Jordan explains: Ballot curing ban in Wisconsin

Griffin thinks the decision to no longer allow clerks to fill in missing witness information will ultimately disenfranchise voters, but Virginia Willingham thinks otherwise.

"You don't really know my true address or this that and the other, so I would prefer you mail it back to me and I can do it myself or call me, one of the two,” she said.

Republican Party of Wisconsin Chairman Paul Farrow says the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s 2016 decision went against state law and he applauds the Waukesha County judge’s ruling to no longer allow it.

“In state law, the statutes read that an individual is the only person that can cure their absentee envelope as they send it in,” Farrow said. “In fact, it even dictates that if the individual’s witness doesn’t put their address down, the ballot cannot be counted. It’s right there in statute.”

Following the 2020 presidential election, the non-partisan Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau reviewed nearly 15,000 absentee ballot certifications. It found that on 6.9 percent of those ballot envelopes, clerks filled in missing information on the witness address line.

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Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg says in Milwaukee’s Spring General Election, officials fixed witnesses' addresses just over 300 times, but far more voters are expected to turn out in November.

“We have a long history of if a voter’s intent is clear we don’t try to discount someone’s vote on a technicality,” she said.

Woodall-Vogg says that’s why Milwaukee absentee voters will receive a bright orange reminder with their ballot. Woodall-Vogg adds that if the ballot envelope is returned without all the information needed, it will be mailed back for the voter to fix.

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"If a voter is waiting until the last minute to return their absentee ballot and something is missing, there's very little time to cure that and that's when we are going to be looking, seeing if we have current contact information for the voter and doing everything that's within our power to make sure their vote is counted,” she said.

Woodall-Vogg says if the witness’ address misses the city, state or even the zip code, the ballot cannot be counted until it’s fixed by the absentee voter.

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