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Journal Times editorial: Clock is ticking before the next election

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The clock is ticking before the next election and we as a state have failed again to take action — putting us again in position to have last-minute election drama.

Going into an election with multiple races, all candidates and races should be subject to the same rules. Those rules should be clear. And election officials shouldn’t have to worry about the rules changing at the last minute.

That is not the case.

The spring primary is about four weeks away on Feb. 15, followed by the April 5 spring election.

This is not a presidential election year and statewide general elections are not until November. But the April elections are just as important, with residents deciding who runs cities, counties and school districts. Now more than ever those races are so important.

Yet there is still uncertainty going into the elections, on issues like voter drop boxes and how clerks can correct absentee ballots missing a witness’ full address. Some things vary from municipality to municipality.

For instance, according to the Wisconsin Election Commission’s website, it’s up to each municipality if they want to use ballot absentee ballot drop boxes.

“The use of secure absentee ballot drop boxes is an accepted elections practice in the United States that far predates the 2020 elections cycle … Until the courts or legislature address this matter that remains a local decision,” the Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) states on its website.

As for how to fix an absentee ballot with missing witness information there is also ambiguity.

When the Wisconsin Election Commission met in December they directed staff to prepare drafts with guidance, one that mirrors current guidance and a best alternative proposal. Both were to be prepared for the March 9, 2022 commission meeting, which is about a month after the February primary.

On top of that, the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules, of which Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater is the co-chairman, voted on Monday, Jan. 10, to require the WEC to submit emergency rules within 30 days or cease issuing directives on ballot drop boxes and guidance on correction of errors and omissions on absentee ballots. And if the WEC does make rules, Nass has warned that his committee has the power to suspend parts or all of those rules if the committee determines the agency lacks statutory authority.

The WEC is now scheduled to meet Jan. 28 to consider the committee’s recent request to draft emergency administrative rules or withdraw existing guidance related to drop boxes and fixing absentee ballot errors, according to Riley Vetterkind, public information officer for the WEC.

That leaves a lot of uncertainty leading up to the spring primary and election.

It shouldn’t have been this way. It shouldn’t have come down to the wire like this.

Our state leaders need to do better. We don’t need this drama leading into elections.

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