Racine’s use of mobile sites violates state law directives on absentee ballot collection
The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) against the City Clerk of Racine for employing mobile voting sites throughout the community that violate Wisconsin state law governing alternate absentee ballot sites. The complaint, filed on behalf of a Racine voter, urges WEC to direct Racine to comply with applicable state laws that prevent mobile voting sites and ensure that the sites selected do not confer a partisan advantage.
For more details on Racine’s election van and partisan advantage, see Stacking the Deck? Racine’s Mobile Voting Unit and Ward Partisanship by Will Flanders and Dylan Palmer
The Quote: WILL Deputy Counsel, Anthony LoCoco, said, “Racine’s use of mobile voting sites violates clear directives in state law on the collection of absentee ballots at alternative sites. WEC must make clear that Racine is violating the law and ensure that clerks across the state understand what is, and is not permitted in Wisconsin law.”
Wisconsin State Law: State law (Wis. Stat. § 6.855) provides that the office of the municipal clerk is the default location “to which voted absentee ballots shall be returned by electors for any election.”
But there may be circumstances when the clerk’s office is unavailable for early, in person absentee voting. In those cases the clerk may designate an alternate absentee ballot site or sites, but under state law “The designated site shall be located as near as practicable to the office of the municipal clerk or board of election commissioners and no site may be designated that affords an advantage to any political party.”
The point of the statute is to allow an alternate site or sites, if necessary, but to make sure that any and all such sites are as centrally located as the clerk’s office in City Hall and to make sure any site selected does not provide an advantage to any political party.
How Racine is Violating State Law: For the August 9th primary, the Racine City Clerk allowed 21 alternate absentee ballot locations (not centrally located but scattered throughout the city) and the majority of which provided an advantage to the Democratic Party because they were located in the most Democratic parts of the City. This is documented in a new WILL analysis.
Additionally, state law says that if a city uses alternate sites then “no function related to voting and return of absentee ballots that is to be conducted at the alternate site may be conducted in the office of the municipal clerk or board of election commissioners.”
For the August 9th primary, 21 sites were designated where an election van visited for 3 hours before moving to another site over the course of two weeks prior to election day. The Racine City Clerk allowed absentee voting at both the 21 alternate sites and at City Hall where the Clerk’s Office is located.
Finally, Wisconsin law contemplates that voting will occur in fixed locations like buildings and not in cars, vans, or buses. Racine’s use of an election van is inconsistent with this principle.
To summarize: alternative absentee ballot sites must be located in buildings as near to the clerk’s office as possible, cannot confer partisan advantage, and must be the exclusive site for the collection of ballots throughout an election. The City Clerk violated each of these requirements.
WILL’s Complaint: Racine’s use of an election van and the adoption of dozens of alternative sites violates state law.
The designated mobile sites are not as close to the clerk’s office as possible.
A WILL analysis of the designated sites indicates that there is a partisan advantage with wards that turn out Democrat votes at the highest percentage receiving the most alternative locations.
And finally, when alternative absentee ballot sites are selected, there is to be no in-person absentee voting at the clerk’s office. During the August 9, primary voting occurred at the clerk’s office between July 26, and August 6, during regular hours while the election van was at alternate sites.
WEC Complaint, August 10, 2022
Exhibits, August 10, 2022
Stacking the Deck? Racine’s Mobile Voting Unit and Ward Partisanship, Will Flanders and Dylan Palmer, August 2022