Wisconsin Elections Commission deadlocks, witness address guidance

The Wisconsin Elections Commission deadlocked Wednesday on whether to rescind guidance issued in 2016 that says clerks can fill in missing witness address information on absentee ballot envelopes without contacting the witness or the voter.

The guidance was in effect during the 2020 election and drew intense criticism from Republican legislators concerned about election security.

The Legislature's Republican-controlled rules committee earlier this year ordered the Elections Commission to codify the guidance as a rule. The commission complied and the committee voted last month to kill the rule.

The committee vote didn't affect the guidance, leaving commissioners to ponder whether to rescind it. The question of whether to rescind the guidance was on the commission's agenda Tuesday but Republican Commissioner Robert Spindell was the only one to speak on the matter, saying he wasn't "particularly enthralled" with the guidance and the commission should follow the Legislature's lead and rescind it.

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The commission's three Republicans voted to drop the guidance but the panel's three Democrats voted to keep it with no further discussion. The tie vote means the guidance remains in place.