A bill that would let voters casting in-person absentee ballots use an electronic voting machine is getting widespread support from municipal clerks, who argue the change would reduce costs while increasing public confidence.
Currently, those voting absentee in person must fill out paper ballots, seal them in an envelope and sign the envelope. They then aren’t opened and tallied until Election Day, a timeline some clerks and the bill’s author argued strains poll workers and taps into local resources. Under the bill from Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, those ballots still wouldn’t be tallied until Election Day, although municipal clerks would have to post a daily tally of ballots cast – if the municipalities opted into giving its voters the option to cast ballots that way. “This is really just about instead of putting it in an envelope, you as a voter have the opportunity to feed it into a machine,” Brandtjen said Nov. 28 at an Assembly public hearing on the legislation.
Wisconsin Elections Commission Chairman Michael Haas, though, raised concerns that the bill would lack uniformity in its treatment of voters and ballots, which he said would be dealt with differently “depending on what municipality you live in.”
For example, he said, if someone makes an error on their in-person absentee ballot, the voting equipment would give them a warning sign and opportunity to correct their ballot, which “doesn’t happen to voters who submit their ballot by mail.”
And Haas said municipalities wouldn’t be able to offer their voters this option unless they had access to newer equipment equipped with a write-in functionality.
Still, Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee Chair Rep. Kathleen Bernier said there’s no uniformity in the current absentee process, pointing to the different hours municipal clerks work across the state.