MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin judge on Tuesday ordered the state elections commission to implement his ruling allowing election clerks to accept absentee ballots that have partial witness addresses, a decision that is expected to expand the number of ballots that will be counted in the battleground state.
Each of the last two presidential elections in Wisconsin was decided by fewer than 23,000 votes. Polls show another razor-tight race this year between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.
Ever since Trump’s defeat in Wisconsin in 2020, Republicans have been fighting in court to tighten the rules to limit how many absentee ballots can be accepted.
Dane County Judge Ryan Nilsestuen earlier this month ruled, in two cases brought by liberals, that a ballot can still be accepted even if a witness address omits municipalities and ZIP codes, or simply say “same” or “ditto” if the witness lives with the voter. The Republican Legislature fought to have the case dismissed.
Nilsestuen on Tuesday ordered the elections commission to approve guidance no later than Feb. 9 that would direct clerks on what ballots can be accepted. Nilsestuen stressed that he wanted to move quickly given the upcoming Feb. 20 primary for local elections. Wisconsin’s presidential primary and spring general election is April 2.
The Republican-dominated Legislature’s attorney, Kevin LeRoy, said he planned to ask for the ruling to be put on hold pending an appeal. The judge scheduled a Friday hearing on that.
The case is expected to go to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.