Failed to pass both houses, will not become law this session

Under current law, absentee ballot envelopes include a printed certificate that must be completed, signed by the voter and a qualified witness, and returned to the municipal clerk with the completed ballot so that it is delivered to the polling place no later than 8 p.m. on election day. The witness certificate includes the witness's printed name and address in addition to his or her signature. If a municipal clerk receives an absentee ballot with an improperly completed certificate, the clerk may, but is not required to, return the ballot to the voter whenever time permits so that the voter may correct the defect. If a certificate is missing the address of the witness, the ballot may not be counted. 

Under this bill, an absentee ballot that is returned with a witness certification that does not include all of the following may not be counted: 

  1. The witness's printed first name. 
  2. The witness's printed last name. 
  3. The witness's house or apartment number. 
  4. The witness's street name. 
  5. The witness's municipality. 
  6. The witness's state. 
  7. The witness's zip code. 

The bill also prohibits any person other than the voter, or the witness with respect to the witness certificate, from correcting a defect in the voter's absentee ballot certificate. Whoever violates this prohibition is subject to a fine not to exceed $500 or imprisonment not to exceed 30 days, or both.

Voters should not be disenfranchised because of immaterial errors on ballot envelopes. A Dane County Circuit Court Judge ruled in January that clerks may accept absentee ballots whose envelopes contain partial witness addresses, as long as the witnesses’ addresses are discernable.

The Wisconsin Election Commission then adopted guidance for clerks that a witness address can be accepted “as long as the [absentee ballot envelope] contains sufficient information to allow a reasonable person in the community to identify a location where the witness may be communicated with.”


Representative Donna Rozar; Senators Julian Bradley and Cory Tomczyk


Passed committee



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