WILL Asks Wisconsin Elections Commission to Ban Ballot Harvesting

Rules petition would make clear ballot harvesting is illegal under Wisconsin law

The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), on behalf of a group of petitioners, submitted a rules petition to the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) asking the state agency to promulgate a rule that makes clear that the practice of ballot harvesting is illegal in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Elections Commission is required by state law to respond to WILL’s petition within a “reasonable period of time.”

What is Ballot Harvesting? This is a practice that occurs when a third party requests absentee ballots for a voter, or a voter requests and receives an absentee ballot, and that ballot is collected and returned to the relevant municipal clerk by a third party. The practice is legal in California, but explicitly banned in other states.

  • In North Carolina, an illegal ballot harvesting operation by a Republican operative in 2019 resulted in criminal charges and forced a special election.

WILL’s Rules Petition: Under Wisconsin law, only voters are allowed to request absentee ballots and voters are responsible for returning the ballot. This is the law except in very specific circumstances such as hospitalization. WILL, on behalf of the petitioners, is asking the Wisconsin Elections Commission to promulgate a rule that makes clear:

  • Third parties cannot request an absentee ballot on behalf of a voter
  • Third parties cannot collect and submit absentee ballots on behalf of a voter

The Wisconsin Elections Commission is required to consider the rules petition and either begin the rulemaking process or provide a response explaining why they are rejecting the petition.

The Quote: WILL Deputy Counsel Lucas Vebber said, “We can expect significant interest in absentee voting in 2020. This can be a positive development given the pandemic. But the Wisconsin Elections Commission should make clear that it is the responsibility and right of voters, not third parties, to request and submit ballots.”

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