Be our guest: County clerk speaks on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and changes
By Kayla R. Filen
Portage County Clerk
On June 29, 2020 the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling on the One Wisconsin Institute case that had been on appeal since 2016. Following the ruling the Wisconsin Elections Commission provided guidance to Wisconsin County and Municipal Clerks indicating that in person absentee voting, which had begun in many municipalities, was to cease immediately and could resume on July 28, 2020. The ruling shortened the time allowed by law for municipal clerks to conduct in-person absentee voting to the two weeks (14 days) prior to the election. Municipal clerks are required by law to offer in-person absentee voting, however, prior to the June 29, 2020 ruling, municipal clerks had discretion over when in-person absentee voting would be available in their jurisdiction and could start as soon as ballots were delivered by the County Clerk (48 days prior for federal elections). The June 29 ruling also increased the voter registration residency requirement from 10 days to 28 days and eliminated the ability for voters, other than military and overseas voters, to receive their ballot by fax or email. Prior to the ruling, all voters could request their ballot delivery method as mail, email, or fax.
On July 2 the Wisconsin Department of Justice advised that the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling was not yet in effect as a mandate had not yet been issued. A mandate is expected to be issued on or around July 21. Therefore, in-person absentee voting may recommence now until the mandate is issued at the discretion of the municipal clerk. In-person absentee voting must be offered starting July 28, but voters should check with their municipal clerk for hours of availability as many jurisdictions in Portage County are by appointment only.
The ruling and subsequent guidance has caused confusion for voters. Anyone with questions regarding the ruling and how it impacts voting can contact their local municipal clerk, the County Clerk, or the Wisconsin Elections Commission.