WEC approves final draft to send absentee ballot application to 2.7 million voters

    Wisconsin Elections Commission
    The Wisconsin Elections Commission meeting on June 10. (Screenshot)

    After several meetings to address the concept, the appropriations and the language, the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) unanimously voted Wednesday to finalize sending an absentee ballot application to 2.7 million registered voters in Wisconsin. 

    Remarkably, the commission — divided 3-3 between Democrats and Republicans — voted 6-0 every step of the way despite frequently getting sidetracked into the weeds of partisan bickering

    The effort to send absentee applications to voters also survived attacks from Republicans in the State Legislature. Rep. Rick Gundrum (R-Slinger) circulated a letter on Tuesday saying the WEC shouldn’t go through with its plan. 

    On Wednesday, the WEC suggested some minor changes to the language of the letter and request form before its approval. The package needed to be approved by the end of the week so commission staff could send it to the printer. 

    But because reaching consensus on the commission is rarely easy, the final approval was almost derailed by the question of whether or not the mail should be forwardable — something the commission had already decided it shouldn’t allow. 

    Republican-appointed Commissioners Dean Knudson and Robert Spindell expressed concern that forwarding would open the process up to fraud. Spindell attempted to add an amendment to the motion approving the letter’s language that would prohibit forwarding — an amendment that was likely to split the vote. 

    WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe said forwarding was something the commission could consider to account for registered voters moving over the summer. Chair Ann Jacobs, a Democrat, said she thought there were “pros and cons” to forwarding. 

    Ultimately, after several minutes of back and forth, Democratic Commissioner Mark Thomsen ended the debate by saying forwarding should be prohibited. 

    “I think we have spent so much more time than is necessary,” Thomsen said. “We have agreed 6-0 to send it. We’ve agreed 6-0 to the letter. The assumption was that we don’t forward it, I move that we don’t forward it. I’d ask for a second, end it and let’s just vote and move on and go.” 

    The mailing will head to the printer next week, according to Wolfe, and will be sent to 2.7 million voters in September. 

    Henry Redman
    Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.