Posted at 1:45 p.m. on Wednesday, February 10, 2021
The Brillion News
MADISON – State Senator Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, the co-chair of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR), announced action to compel the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) to stop issuing directives to local municipal clerks prohibiting special voting deputies (SVDs) from going to nursing homes, residential care facilities and retirement homes to assist with absentee voting by residents of these facilities.
Nass also released a legal opinion from the Wisconsin Legislative Council making clear that “state law does not empower the Elections Commission to waive” a statutory requirement that local clerks must dispatch SVDs to these facilities.
“The Wisconsin Elections Commission and its staff have been issuing improper directives to local municipal clerks that raise serious questions regarding the integrity of absentee voting by residents of residential care facilities across the state. The law on SVDs and the absentee ballot process for residents of residential care facilities is crystal clear,” Nass said. “The WEC has been issuing directives it has no authority to under the law.”
“State law does not empower the Elections Commission to waive the requirement for clerks to dispatch SVDs to qualifying care facilities, nor does it contain an exemption for clerks based on the pandemic,” wrote Katie Bender-Olson, Senior Staff Attorney with the non-partisan Legislative Council. “While the statutes permit clerks to mail absentee ballots to facility residents, they may do so only after two SVD visits to the facility.”
Nass said that the JCRAR will be meeting in executive session [on February 11] to vote on mandating WEC to comply with Wisconsin statutes requiring the commission to show statutory authority for such directives or cease issuing the directives for lack of legal authority.
If WEC believes it has the authority for SVD directives, then the agency must submit an emergency rule within 30 days.
The JCRAR has the power to suspend parts or all provisions of any emergency rule submitted by a state agency, Nass said.