As issues continue to develop and change at a quick rate with COVID-19, the Coronavirus, we at the Wisconsin Counties Association (WCA) are working alongside Governor Tony Evers, the Administration, the National Association of Counties (NACo) and our general counsel, Attolles Law, s.c., to provide the latest resources and updates to assist county officials during this unprecedented time.

COVID-19 Daily Update: 3.21.2020

March 21, 2020

Yesterday Western District of Wisconsin Judge William Conley issued a decision in a case brought by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and the Democratic National Committee against the Wisconsin Elections Commission (“WEC”). 

The lawsuit is attempting to loosen registration and absentee voting requirements prior to the Spring General Election. The Wisconsin Department of Justice, representing the WEC, raised concerns that the “risks of changing election law within weeks of the election” would lead to voter confusion and an “inability to ensure these changes are effectuated statewide.”

Judge Conley granted the request to extend the deadline to register online to March 30, which was previously March 18. In so doing, he cited the impact of the COVID-19 virus, taking into consideration the “excruciating dilemma” faced by voters who hadn’t registered by Wednesday. He framed the issue by observing a voter’s dilemma:

The court cannot help but take judicial notice of the excruciating dilemma that will soon be faced by eligible voters who did not register by the March 18, 2020, deadline: either venture into public spaces, contrary to public directives and health guidelines or stay at home and lose the opportunity to vote.

While Judge Conley noted that his decision may be revisited as events unfolded (in particular with respect to the deadline for absentee ballots to be received by municipal clerks), he denied the following requests:

  • To extend the deadline to register by mail.
  • To suspend the photo ID requirements for voting absentee as well as another requirement relating to the requirement that a voter provide proof of residency documents with registration requests.
  • To extend the deadline for an absentee ballot to be received in order for it to be counted. The request would require absentee ballots be postmarked be Election Day but received by municipal clerks within 10 days of the Spring General Election.

There will almost certainly be more developments in the case as the plaintiffs file additional requests and additional interested parties attempt to intervene. 

The WCA Government Relations team will continue to work with WCA General Counsel von Briesen & Roper, s.c. to monitor the litigation and will provide timely updates as events unfold.