JCRAR Co-chair Sen. Steve Nass says he has asked legislative leaders to file a lawsuit to stop the Wisconsin Elections Commission from continuing to issue guidance to clerks on curing absentee ballot envelopes.
The Whitewater Republican told WisPolitics.com in a phone interview he is outraged by WEC attorneys’ interpretation of Wednesday’s Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules action.
The committee voted to suspend a rule that would’ve directed clerks on the steps they must take to fix missing or incorrect information on absentee ballot envelopes. WEC attorneys argued that action doesn’t affect ballot envelope curing guidance the commission issued in 2016 telling clerks they could fill in missing information.
Nass called WEC’s move “wrong, illegal and stunning as to how brazen it is.”
“It’s crazy. It is clear that they are directing clerks to violate state law with the intention frankly to assist one party,” he said. “It cannot be any more obvious.”
The Waukesha County GOP and others have filed a suit in Waukesha County Circuit Court seeking an order to bar clerks from fixing missing or incorrect information on absentee ballot envelopes.
Nass also said “it’s blatantly obvious” former WEC Chair Ann Jacobs is a Dem abusing her powers on the commission to advantage her side.
“This is a clear example of the Wisconsin Elections Commission utilizing directions to clerks to in essence resurrect ballots that otherwise would not be counted that will benefit Dem areas of the state,” he said.
Jacobs told WisPolitics.com allowing clerks to correct the issues is not partisan because Republican and Democratic voters make mistakes in getting their ballots to clerks.
She added nobody complained about the guidance when WEC put it in place ahead of the 2016 presidential election, or after former President Donald Trump won that election or any time before the 2020 election.
“It’s only the sour grapes who are the political losers of 2020 who are complaining about it,” she said.
Jacobs also noted Republican Commissioner Dean Knudson in a past meeting said he has made at least one mistake on his absentee ballot envelopes in the past.
“It’s not a Republican thing, and it’s not a Democratic thing,” she said.
Nass said the commission is putting clerks at risk of civil or criminal liability by giving them guidance Nass says directs them to break the law. The guidance tells clerks how they can correct deficiencies on absentee ballot envelopes, but Nass says yesterday’s JCRAR decision “made clear you cannot do it.”
He added the Legislature can pass laws that clarify language that some lawmakers in yesterday’s JCRAR hearing said was ambiguous, such as the definition of “address” and what it means for clerks to “return” ballots to voters.