Yesterday, state election officials punted a vote on whether to mail absentee ballot applications to millions of Wisconsin voters, among a number of proposals to plan for the primary in August and the fall election in November.
The proposal would spend $2.1 million of federal CARES aid to mail absentee ballot applications to registered voters who haven’t already requested them.
Wisconsin has nearly 3.4 million registered voters, 2.7 million of whom haven’t requested an absentee ballot.
Currently, registered voters must either download absentee ballot applications online, or visit their county clerk’s office to receive one. Those who have a difficult time getting to a polling place due to age or infirmity, can also request absentee ballots be sent to them every election.
In last month’s spring election, nearly 62% of ballots cast were cast absentee by mail, and another 12.5% were absentee early votes.
The six-member bipartisan commission is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Members are appointed by legislative leaders and the governor. For a plan to pass, four of the six commissioners would have to vote yes.
Speaking at yesterday’s meeting, Commissioner Mark Thomson said the committee needs more time to evaluate the proposed measure.
“Look, maybe there’s a lot we can agree on. I’d like to see the whole package, think it through and maybe it does make a lot of sense and I don’t have a problem with it. I’m just not comfortable just voting on it,” he said. “I’m trying to politely say, can we come back and vote on it and see if we have actual disagreements or not?”
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a statement yesterday that he opposed the proposal, saying the Elections Commission should hand over the federal aid money to local clerks instead. But, if the Commission approves a measure, it would not need to be approved by the legislature.
The commission also analyzed recommendations to distribute millions in aid to local clerks to account for mailing ballots, and an overall change to the design of absentee ballots. One item, which did pass, will spend about $500,000 for local clerks to obtain sanitation supplies.
Another vote on the other measures is scheduled for next week.