MILWAUKEE (CN) – Wisconsin agreed to a consent decree after federal prosecutors accused it of failing to send absentee ballots to members of the armed forces and other voters overseas in time for the Nov. 2 general elections. Wisconsin sought but was denied a hardship waiver, as the timing of its primaries gave it only 4 days to prepare and send out the ballots for the general election.
Uncle Sam claims Wisconsin violated the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act as amended by the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act – or MOVE Act – by sending out the ballots out less than 45 days before a federal election.
Wisconsin sought a hardship waiver, as there are only 49 days between Wisconsin’s Sept. 14 primary and the Nov. 2 general election, but the Secretary of Defense denied it.
Wisconsin law allows post-election canvassing for up to 14 days, which would require the list of certified candidates for the general election to be available by Sept. 28 – just 35 days until the general election.
Wisconsin also allows local jurisdictions to mail absentee ballots to the uniformed and overseas voters by Oct. 4 – just 29 days before the general election.
The state allows “military electors,” including merchant marines, civilian employees of the United States, Peace Corps volunteers, or spouses or dependents, to postmark their ballots as late as the primary election day – allowing 39 days until the general election.
The Pentagon acknowledged that the law created an undue hardship for Wisconsin, but still rejected the state’s hardship request, which has led the state’s political establishment to consider moving up the date for its primary elections. But a spokesman for Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board said in late August that making such a change this late “would prove a logistical nightmare for local clerks,” according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
In the Consent Decree, filed simultaneously with the federal complaint, the state and feds agreed “that this action should be settled without the delay and expense of litigation.”
According to the Consent Decree, which needs a judge’s approval, overseas votes will be counted so long as they arrive by Nov. 19, and the state agreed to work diligently to send out the ballots by Oct. 1, to allow 49 days period for the ballots to be received, marked, and counted. Wisconsin also agreed to comply with the Move Act in all future federal elections.