Late-afternoon Supreme Court ruling forces clerks to sit on absentee ballots until Tuesday

MADISON, Wis.– Municipal clerks spent Monday doing something they’ve done for the past several days: waiting on a ruling.  The absentee ballots they were hoping to start sending out were at a stand still until the Wisconsin Supreme Court determined if the Green Party’s presidential candidate could be printed on this election’s ballot.

The Court’s decision (rejecting the Green Party’s request) did eventually come late Monday afternoon, but it was too late in the day for ballots to start going to the post office.  That meant another weekday passing without envelopes going out to voters.

“We have about 8,500 ballots here. They are all stuffed. They all have their labels on them. They’ve got the instructions, the return envelope. They’re just waiting on the ballot,” Sun Prairie Clerk Elena Hilby said Monday morning.

“We’re just waiting to find out which ballots,” Hilby said. “If we are going to send the ones we have or if we are going to have to have them reprinted.”

Requests for absentee ballots are flooding clerk’s offices because of the coronavirus, which explains the urgency to get them out. The sooner ballots get to voters, the sooner they come back.

“We have envelopes stuffed with our instructions. We even got ‘I Voted’ stickers for this election in all of our envelopes. We’ve put labels for our outside envelope and inside envelope that the voters send back to us,” Madison Deputy Clerk Jim Verbick said.

While a reminder postcard from the United States Postal Service suggests requesting a mail-in ballot at least 15 days before Election Day, Verbick said that’s the bare minimum.

“We would actually recommend that people send their absentee ballot back 15 days ahead,” Verbick said.

Hilby told News 3 Now she was concerned (prior to the decision) the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision could delay meeting a deadline to mail ballots out by Thursday.

“If it is determined that we need to reprint ballots, I think something is going to have to be done to give us a little bit of leeway,” Hilby said.

Regardless of when a requested ballot arrives, it has to be returned on or before election day. If voters plan to vote by mail, clerks recommend returning ballots as soon as possible. Ballots can also be returned to clerk’s office drop boxes or voter’s polling place on Election Day.