To: Wisconsin Election Commission
From: League of Women Voters of Wisconsin
Re: Public Comments for May 24, 2018 WEC meeting
Absentee Ballot Envelope
The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin appreciates the Wisconsin Election Commission addressing the serious concern regarding the issues with absentee ballot envelopes being returned as “undeliverable” to voters and therefore these votes not counted in the February and April elections. As we addressed in our April 23, 2018 memo to WEC, which is referenced in the WEC meeting materials, the landscape version of the absentee ballot envelope is known to cause problems with the postal service being unable to read the address and ultimately leads to voters ballots not being counted because the ballot is returned to the voter and not delivered to the clerk’s office as addressed. There is no legitimate, government purpose in circulating an absentee ballot envelope that is known to have issues. It disenfranchises voters and seemingly at random. The landscape envelope design denies the right to vote, and since the Commission knows of and has mitigated the problem with a revised portrait version, there is no rational basis for continuing to use the landscape version of the envelope.
The WEC staff’s recommended motion at the end of the memo to onlyrecommend that clerks use the portrait version of the absentee certificate envelope and conduct additional research does not go far enough to protect voters from this known problem. Instead of adopting the staff’s recommended motion, we urge the Commission to take stronger action to resolve this issue, and clerks must be directed to discontinue use of the landscape version for mail-in absentee voting. This option was identified by WEC staff in the memo shared with the Commission today, “The Commission could take a firmer position that clerks may not use the landscape certificate envelope for mail-in absentee voting, but may use it for in-person absentee voting and voting with special voting deputies where postal delivery is not an issue.” LWV WI recommends immediately discontinuing the use of the landscape envelope for mail-in absentee voting.
We believe that all overseas voters should be treated equally, and temporary overseas voters should receive all UOCAVA protections that permanent overseas voters are currently given. We support the WEC in taking steps to make that happen, and encourage the Wisconsin legislature to amend current law to make this a permanent change.
During the Spring Election, the League released its 9th election observation report. Through this program, volunteer observers are trained to gather information from polling places across Wisconsin to learn more about the voters’ experiences. Specifically, for the April election, we asked our observers to report on the supplemental ERIC poll lists. Our observers found that the supplemental ERIC poll lists were helpful to some voters, but did not protect every voter who had been deactivated in error. For example, in Dane County a voter claimed they were registered, not found in the rolls, and had to re-register. Later poll workers found the voter’s name on a supplemental list that had been misplaced. Additionally, observers noted three voters in Milwaukee County who claimed that they had voted at their current address in previous elections, were not found in the poll book nor the ERIC list, and had to re-register to vote.The supplemental lists relied on poll workers remembering to check the list every time a voter challenged not being listed in the poll book. Our observers also noted that three polling locations reported that they did not receive a supplemental ERIC poll list and that two of those sites had no knowledge of the supplemental ERIC poll list.
As was recommended previously by LWV WI, we again recommend that to protect voters, those deactivated during the routine maintenance using the ERIC process should be put back on the poll lists. Voters should not be unduly burdened by errors that are of no fault of their own. It should also not be the responsibility of poll workers to fix this error. To require the clerks to review the voters who received an ERIC postcard and were deactivated as outlined in the Wisconsin Election Commission’s March 8, 2018 “ERIC Voters Who Did Not Move” memo puts the stress on the clerks. Putting the voters back on the lists now while there is time before the fall primary would keep the Election Day process consistent, while WEC ensures the issues leading to the erroneous deactivations are corrected before using the ERIC process to update the poll lists in the future.
Election Security Funds
At the April 18, 2018 WEC meeting, WEC staff announced that there would be an opportunity for the public to give input on how the WEC should consider spending the currently undesignated funds of the nearly $7 million of HAVA funding the Commission will be receiving for election security. The League has prepared information to present WEC regarding how funds could be spent to improve and secure Wisconsin elections in accordance to the funding guidelines. We would like to know what the process will look like and when WEC will collect input from the public. Even though some of this will be in discussed in today’s meeting, LWV WI will refrain from comments on cybersecurity and audits during this meeting and share them at the forthcoming meeting for public comment. Do you have more information on when the meeting for public comment will be held?