Wisconsin election officials on Tuesday agreed to ask the Legislature to revamp the state’s absentee voting regulations by streamlining request deadlines, expanding electronic ballot access for overseas voters and implementing other changes. The state Government Accountability Board agreed after only brief discussion to make the recommendations at the request of a municipal clerk task force. That panel contends the state’s absentee voting requirements have grown too complicated and confusing over the years.
The task force said lawmakers should make the Thursday before an election the deadline for all voters to request an absentee ballot. Right now, members of the general public must make the request by that day, but military voters and indefinitely confined voters have until the end of the day Friday to ask for ballots. During federal elections, military voters on active duty can request a ballot up until 5 p.m. on Election Day.
GAB staff wrote in a memo that the confusion over the varying deadlines outweighs any benefits they might provide.
The task force also proposed allowing all overseas voters to obtain ballots by downloading them from the GAB’s website or by asking clerks to email or fax them ballots directly. Currently, only military voters and overseas voters with no intention of returning can access ballots electronically.
GAB staff wrote that in the weeks leading up to the November 2012 election, they received a number of complaints from Wisconsin voters temporarily overseas who wanted electronic access to ballots. Board members praised the task force’s idea, noting that overseas mail can be unreliable.
The board agreed to take both suggestions to the Legislature.