Michael White et al v. Wisconsin Elections Commission

2022CV001008

In White v. Wisconsin Elections Commission, two individual plaintiffs and the Republican Party of Waukesha County challenged longstanding guidance from the Wisconsin Elections Commission that permitted municipal clerks and their staffs to cure minor errors in witness addresses on absentee ballot certificates. Law Forward successfully intervened in the case on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin to argue that clerks needed to be permitted to make such corrections to ensure the ballots would be counted in accordance with federal law. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is clear: votes cannot be thrown out because of immaterial defects like an incomplete or missing witness address.

In a hearing on September 7, 2022, the Court granted the White plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary injunction, ordering the Wisconsin Elections Commission to withdraw the guidance permitting absentee ballot certificate witness address curing. The Waukesha County Democratic Party filed a motion to stay the ruling, which the League joined. The Court denied the motion to stay in a hearing on September 13, 2022, and issued a final judgment in the plaintiffs’ favor on October 3, 2022. However, the Court was clear that it was ruling only on the question of clerks correcting witness addresses, and that it did not intend to address either the definition of a witness address, or whether absentee ballots could be counted in spite of any potential defects in those addresses.

Case Timeline


August 15, 2022

Brief filed.

October 3, 2022

The Court issued a final judgment and permanent injunction on October 3, 2022, prohibiting WEC from issuing any guidance indicating that clerks can add or correct witness information on absentee ballot certificate envelopes. The Court specifically said it was not issuing a ruling on what constituted an address for purposes of the witness requirement.

CASE CATEGORY:
Election Administration

JURISDICTION:
Waukesha County Circuit Court

CASE STAGE
Closed