This week the Wisconsin Elections Commission decided two complaints in favor of our clients, confirming that voters cannot be required to show their photo ID when returning absentee ballots.
In Wojciechowski v. Grill and Martin v. Grill, we represented voters in West Allis who objected to an unlawful new policy the Clerk of West Allis had implemented after the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision in Teigen v. WEC. Teigen held that a voter can only return their own ballot to their municipal clerk, although our follow-up litigation in federal court, Carey v. WEC, confirmed that this rule does not apply to voters with disabilities who require assistance returning their absentee ballot. Clerk staff in West Allis were asking voters returning absentee ballots to present a photo ID to confirm they were returning their own ballot. If they refused, staff were marking the ballots to indicate the ID had not been presented. As we explained in the complaints, absentee voters must already present their IDs when they register to vote and request their absentee ballots. There is no lawful basis to require them to present their IDs again upon returning their ballots to the clerk’s office, if they choose to return them in person. Also, voters with disabilities may not be able to return their ballots, and are entitled under federal law to have a person of their choosing do so for them.
WEC agreed with us on all of our arguments. WEC’s decision letter makes clear that Wisconsin law does not authorize municipal clerks to require voters to present their IDs when returning their absentee ballots; that voters with disabilities have a federally protected right to ballot return assistance; that the request to produce voter ID was an unlawful additional requirement placed upon voters; and that it was unlawful to mark the absentee ballots returned without presenting a voter ID.
Law Forward and our partners remain deeply appreciative of the work clerks and other election officials do to run safe and efficient elections. We understand the added difficulties caused by an uncertain legal landscape and threats from anti-democratic actors. We will, however, continue to do whatever we can to dismantle any inappropriate and unlawful barriers to voting. We will always protect free and fair elections in Wisconsin. We celebrate this latest victory for our clients and all Wisconsin voters.