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Wisconsin court sets up possible delay in absentee mailing

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday ordered that no absentee ballots be mailed until it gives the go-ahead or makes any future ruling about who should be on the ballot in the critical battleground state.

The order injects a measure of confusion into the voting process in Wisconsin a week before a state’s deadline for absentee ballots to be mailed and less than two months before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins. He asked the state’s highest court to take up his challenge of a Wisconsin Elections Commission decision keeping him off the ballot.

Rapper Kanye West, in a separate case, is also trying to get on the ballot after the commission rejected him. 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.

The state Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision split along ideological lines, said no ballots can be sent immediately. Municipal election clerks face a Sept. 17 deadline to mail ballots. As of Thursday, nearly 1 million absentee ballots had been requested.

Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Meagan Wolfe said Thursday just prior to the court’s order that some clerks may have already mailed ballots without West’s and Hawkins’ names on them. State law requires absentee ballots to be mailed by Sept. 17 to voters who have requested one. Wolfe said she did not know how many had been sent.

If West or Hawkins ends up getting on the ballot, the clerks would likely send voters a new ballot, Wolfe said. Voters would also likely receive instructions telling them that their first ballot will not be counted, she said.

That scenario is “incredibly problematic,” Wolfe said.

The state Supreme Court asked the elections commission to provide it by 5 p.m. Thursday with detailed information about who had already been sent a ballot as well as when and who had requested absentee ballots.

The court’s three liberal justices dissented, saying “given the breadth of the information requested and the minimal time allotted to obtain it (the court) is asking the impossible of our approximately 1,850 municipal clerks throughout the state.”

Associated Press writer Todd Richmond also contributed to this report.

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