Deadline extended for absentee ballots

Wisconsin voters casting an absentee ballot in the Tuesday, April 7, election have until 4 p.m. Monday, April 13, to return the ballot to their local municipal clerk, following a judicial ruling issued Thursday, April 2.

U.S. District Court Judge William Conley denied a trio of lawsuits wanting to postpone the Tuesday, April 7, spring election and presidential preference primary because of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent wave of absentee ballots it cause.

Conley’s ruling makes the following changes:

– Extend the deadline to request an absentee ballot to 5 p.m. Friday, April 3.

– Extend the deadline to return an absentee ballot to 4 p.m. Monday, April 13, with no requirement that ballots be postmarked by election day.

– Allow voters who are unable to safely obtain a witness certification to submit a written statement that they were unable to do so, despite reasonable efforts.

The COVID-19 pandemic and Gov. Tony Evers’ safer-at-home order have led to major pushes to have voters cast absentee ballots.

McFarland Clerk Cassandra Suettinger said Conley’s ruling will mean even more ballots to count.

“We received news just in the last hour or so that Judge William Conley has changed deadlines and extended the period by which absentee ballots need to be counted,” she said Thursday, April 2. “This will absolutely increase the number of ballots that will be counted.

“As we sit today the village has issued 2,967 absentee ballots. That is 50 percent of eligible voters. To date, 1,793 of those have been returned. It is hard to tell how many will come back.”

Cottage Grove Clerk Lisa Kalata said everything is changing daily, and hard numbers are difficult to estimate beforehand.

“I can give you the numbers we have as of right now, but I couldn’t even begin to guess (the final numbers) as everything changes daily,” she said Friday, April 3. “Currently, we have issued 2,096 absentee ballots and have received approximately 45-50 percent back as of this morning. We currently have 4,417 registered voters in the village.”

In Monona, Clerk Joan Andrusz said if all the city’s absentee ballots get returned, voter turnout will exceed 50 percent even before the polls open.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin and several liberal-leaning groups had filed the three federal lawsuits, which were later combined, and were asking Conley to postpone in-person voting on Tuesday, April 7, allow clerks to send absentee ballots to all registered voters and give clerks until June 2 to count ballots.

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