Military ballot law waiver denied in Wisconsin - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Military ballot law waiver denied in Wisconsin


MADISON (WKOW) -- A waiver to ignore a new federal law meant to protect the voting rights of deployed troops and other Americans overseas has been denied in Wisconsin. 

Wisconsin was one of the nine states and the District of Columbia that requested the waiver.  The state was notified Friday that it had not received the waiver.

This law requires ballots to be sent out to certain voters at least 45 days before an election.  This creates an issue for states like Wisconsin because the deadline for distributing November ballots is September 18, too late for them to certify the results of the primary.

State elections officials said Wisconsin already provides military voters with write-in style ballots within the rule's time frame, and allows absentee ballots from active duty service people to be counted for an additional ten days after a general election.

But federal officials said four states, including New York, approved for waivers went farther to ensure ballots with listed candidates listed got to military members.

"What we're working on is making sure we do get the ballots to the voters and we can count them,"   Wi. Government Accountability Board Executive Director Kevin Kennedy said.

But Kennedy conceded the waiver denial sets the stage for a potential court battle.

"The next step would be the federal government, in trying to make us comply would bring a lawsuit."

State elections officials said a settlement of such a lawsuit has already been discussed with representatives of the U.S. Attorney, but provided no details.

Kennedy said in the absence of agreement on this voting issue, Congress could question the validity of Wisconsin votes for federal offices, such as the U.S. Senate.

Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl said e-mails are also used to speed ballots to deployed troops.

But Witzel-Behl said the reliance on write-in style ballots has at times been an issue for these absentee military voters.

"Some of the frustration they've expressed to our office is that they'll get the write-in ballot and don't know who they may be voting for, because at this point, the September primary hasn't taken place, but we've already mailed out the November write-in ballots.

State elections officials say one option off the table is moving up next month's primary,  as logistically and legislatively impossible.

Lawmakers in some states changed primary calendars in anticipation of the new federal voting rules taking effect.

Online reporting by Tony Galli.


A spokeswoman for the US Department of Defense said a statement on the status of the other states would be released later Friday.

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