In municipalities in which absentee ballots are processed at the polling place, voters should be able to bring their ballots directly to the officials who will count them. But due to vague language in the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s opinion in Teigen v. Wisconsin Elections Commission, the City of Greenfield and other municipalities have prohibited the delivery of absentee ballots to polling locations on election day, despite long-standing guidance and practice to the contrary.
On August 16, 2023, Law Forward, on behalf of our client Brian Peters filed a new complaint with the Wisconsin Elections Commission: Peters v. Goergen. In August of 2022, Mr. Peters attempted to return his wife’s absentee ballot to their normal polling place on election day, only to be told that election officials would not accept the ballot and that it had to be delivered to city hall.
This case involves a voter with a disability, however, the same rules should apply to all voters: you should be able to bring your ballot directly to the polling location on election day if that is where the ballot will be counted. Not only are polling places more likely to be conveniently located in your neighborhood, but it’s a way a voter can be sure their absentee ballot got where it needs to be.
The freedom to vote should not be taken away from someone due to where they live or because they have a disability. Clear and consistent guidance from election officials is necessary to ensure all voters across Wisconsin are held to the same standards. Ensuring a straightforward, uniform process is critical to administering fair elections, which is why we filed this complaint with WEC to ensure clerks and election officials – who face added difficulties in administering elections due to an uncertain legal landscape and threats from anti-democratic actions – receive clear orders regarding absentee ballot return assistance.
Law Forward and our partners appreciate the work clerks and other election officials do to run safe and efficient elections, but we will continue to do whatever we can to dismantle barriers to voting. On behalf of our client, we look forward to a speedy and successful resolution of this complaint. We encourage all voters, including those who plan to vote absentee in an upcoming election, to check with their municipal clerk to find out more about the voting procedures in their community.