Wisconsin Elections Commission issues guidance for voters with disabilities

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Tuesday night the Wisconsin Elections Commission discussed guidelines that will help people with disabilities legally cast their vote this November if they need help.

When a judge ruled people with disabilities can have someone help deliver their absentee ballots if necessary, the judge also said the WEC must provide guidelines to county clerks.

There was a lot of debate and not a lot of agreement Tuesday night, but ultimately the guidance document was approved.

Republican Commissioner Robert Spindell said, "It seems like there are three or four major issues here."

Those issues were with a draft document aimed at offering guidance for voters with disabilities who may need help returning their ballots. It was presented as answers to questions the commission has gotten from clerks throughout the state.

But some WEC commissioners took issue.

Democratic Commissioner Ann Jacobs said, "I was very unhappy with this morning's draft. I will just be honest."

The WEC attorney called the draft a "middle of the road" approach to start the process, not a final authority.

Attorney Jim Litecha said, "The commission didn't ask for hard guidance or directives, it asked for a comprehensive document that it could work from."

And most commissioners wanted to pass it to get something on the books.

Republican Commissioner Marge Bostelmann said, "That would be my suggestion: we start with this and add and modify as we need to."

But as the night wore on, questions arose over whether a person must prove they have a disability in order to comply with the statute.

Litecha said, "Whether or not clerks would be required to somehow confirm that disability."

But despite calling some of the proposals the most practical and defensible, several commissioners also expected lawsuits regardless of what guidelines they issued.

Republican Chair Bob Millis said, "If the concern is we're going to be sued, I think we're going to be sued one way or the other."

And Democratic Commissioner Mark Thomsen said, "I would ask that we vote for it and go home. And let the courts decide what the law is. Because somebody's suing us no matter what we say tonight."

Absentee ballots could be sent out as early as this month.

The ballots will be sent as soon as they're printed and ready, so some counties may get them earlier than others.

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