A Waukesha County judge ruled today that ballot spoiling is illegal.
The lawsuit was brought by Brookfield resident Nancy Kormanik and the national conservative nonprofit Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections, or RITE.
Ballot spoiling allows an absentee voter to recast their ballot if it becomes “spoiled,” or contains one of many issues, such as being damaged, an error in filling out the ballot, a voter changing their mind after they have cast their vote, or if a voter’s chosen candidate drops out.
But there’s no voting twice. When a ballot is spoiled, it’s invalidated by an elections clerk, says Rachel Rodriguez, an Elections Specialist at the Dane County Clerk’s Office when she spoke with WORT in July.
“Spoiling your ballot is the process that would allow you or would allow clerks to disregard a ballot that you may have already returned and then receive a new ballot,” says Rodriguez.
When this happens, the original ballot is invalidated by the clerk, and a new ballot is sent instead. Wisconsin voters are only allowed three ballots per election, so a ballot can only be spoiled twice.
The lawsuit points to a Wisconsin statute that says that a replacement absentee ballot may be sent to a voter if the ballot is spoiled or damaged. The law does not say what is meant by “spoiled,” though the election commission has stated that a ballot can be spoiled if the voter changes their mind after returning the absentee ballot.
The lawsuit, filed late last month against the state Elections Commission, says that state law only allows someone to spoil their ballot before it is cast. Once the ballot is delivered to the clerk, the lawsuit says, their vote has been officially cast and cannot be changed, even if their chosen candidate is no longer in the race.
The reason for this, the lawsuit says, is because somebody could fraudulently change someone’s vote without their permission.
There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Wisconsin. In fact, the only high profile case of voter fraud in Wisconsin is that of a conservative activist, who then bragged about committing voter fraud to the Racine County Sheriff and the state election commission.
Ballot spoiling became prominent earlier this year when the top three Democratic candidates for US Senate dropped out of the primary just before the primary election.
The ruling is another win for conservatives looking to crack down on absentee voting in Wisconsin. Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court ruled that absentee ballot drop boxes were illegal, and last month another Waukesha County judge ruled that ballot curing, or adding obvious information missing on absentee ballots, was illegal.
The elections commission had not received the written ruling by airtime today, and declined to comment until they could read the ruling in full. However, the elections commission is expecting to hold a meeting tomorrow morning to discuss the ruling, and the commission’s guidance on absentee ballot spoiling.
The 2022 midterm election is on November 8.
Photo courtesy: Tiffany Tertipes / UNSPLASH