The commission will have one more meeting next week to presumably grant final approval.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission will meet next week to potentially grant final approval for the absentee voting packet that will be sent to 2.7 million voters to avoid a repeat of the April 7 primary.
The packet will contain absentee ballot request forms, a move meant to encourage absentee voting as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread. Many states, such as Michigan and Georgia, have already taken action to expand absentee voting for later this year, in line with Centers for Disease Control recommendations.
In a meeting Wednesday, Wisconsin election officials sparred over some of the language presented in a draft of the mailers, with Republican Robert Spindell voicing concern that the literature did not include a question of whether the absentee ballot requestor is a U.S. citizen.
As a result, WEC staff will have to present a final draft next week with that change and a few others, just two days before the files are due for printing.
Spindell said he wanted to add the citizenship question to deter voter fraud and make sure no one questioned the election results. But the concern of widespread voter fraud through absentee voting, peddled by President Donald Trump, is completely baseless. The commission is also only sending absentee ballot requests to registered voters, who are already confirmed to be U.S. citizens.
“You already know they’re citizens because they wouldn’t be getting it if they weren’t,” Democratic commission Chairwoman Ann Jacobs chided. “They are already registered voters in the State of Wisconsin. Do you think they up and, what, gave up their citizenship and became Canadian?”
Mark Thomsen, a Democratic commissioner, piled on.
“We should stand by the people that voted in the past are citizens and our elections were legit,” Thomsen said. “I did the recount on this current president. I didn’t go back and say we don’t think all those people actually were registered voters, or that we have to get citizens’ contacts from them again…. I’m assuming you’re a U.S. citizen and I haven’t asked to see your birth certificate, OK? I’m trusting you’re on the list.”
All six commissioners voted to reconvene next Wednesday to approve the final ballots.
Also in Wednesday’s meeting, the commission reviewed challenges to congressional and legislative candidates’ nomination papers.
In the 1st Congressional District, currently held by Republican Bryan Steil, Democrat Roger Polack challenged a few dozen signatures on the nomination papers of his primary opponent Josh Pade. Pade could have been tossed off the August primary ballot, but the commission only removed some of the signatures Polack contested, meaning Pade squeaked through.
Angela Cunningham, a Kenosha attorney, was also vying for the 1st Congressional District Democratic nomination but dropped out in April.
Enrique Murguia, a Democrat running for the 8th Assembly District, which encompasses the area directly south of downtown Milwaukee, was thrown off the ballot when commissioners removed a handful of signatures from his nominating papers. Murguia ended up just three signatures short.
The primary will now be between JoAnna Bautch, a community organizer, and Sylvia Ortiz-Velez, a Milwaukee County supervisor. The seat is currently held by Democrat JoCasta Zamarripa, who was this year elected to the Milwaukee City Council. She is not seeking reelection.