There are 68,000 absentee ballots sitting at a printer, and Rock County clerks can’t do anything with them.
An order from the state Supreme Court on Thursday halted the mailing of absentee ballots seven days before state statute says ballots need to be mailed.
Rock County Clerk Lisa Tollefson said the 68,000 absentee ballots requested by clerks across the county finished printing the same day the Supreme Court made its ruling. Its possible the ballots might all have to be reprinted.
The court’s order stems from a lawsuit filed by Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins challenging the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s decision to keep him off the ballot.
If the court allows Hawkins on the ballot, Rock County will have to reprint all its absentee ballots, which would cost taxpayers $19,000, Tollefson said.
Rapper Kanye West is also trying to get on the ballot. A Brown County judge said he hoped to rule within days on West’s lawsuit, which could cause further delays in the mailing of ballots, according to the Associated Press.
Janesville Clerk-Treasurer Dave Godek said his office had planned to start stuffing ballots into envelopes Monday or Tuesday.
Clerks can still prepare envelopes and do other tasks to get ready for mailing, but they won’t be touching ballots until the Supreme Court makes its decision, Tollefson said.
There is no sense sending ballots to the clerks if they might have to be reprinted, Tollefson said.
Godek expects to mail out 25,000 absentee ballots for the November election. As of Thursday, 11,822 absentee ballots have been requested in the city.
Janesville has seen substantial election activity this week, despite being “a random week in September,” Godek said.
In the last three days, 246 Janesville residents have requested absentee ballots and 118 people have registered to vote, Godek said.
Although absentee ballots will be delayed, Godek said it is better the order was issued six weeks from the election, rather than later.
Clerks have not received guidance about what would happen if a decision isn’t made in time to make the Sept. 17 deadline, Tollefson said.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 29, but Godek strongly encourages people request ballots by Oct. 22 to allow time for the request to be processed and for the ballot to be mailed and returned.
Ballots can be mailed to clerks’ offices or dropped off in person.
Janesville will be installing a larger drop box outside city hall’s Wall Street entrance to accommodate a large number of absentee ballots, Godek said.
Voters can register to vote and request an absentee ballot online at vote.wi.gov or by contacting their municipal clerk’s office.
The election will be held Nov. 3.