By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Election clerks in northeastern Wisconsin asked the state Supreme Court on Monday to issue an order allowing them to fill in a ballot misprint so that as many as 13,500 ballots can be processed more quickly through counting machines on Election Day.
Using a black pen or marker to fill in the misprinted “timing mark,” which is used by counting machines to read the ballots, would be the easiest and fastest way to fix the problem, clerks in Outagamie and Calumet counties told the state Supreme Court. The Wisconsin Elections Commission also backs that approach, which elections officials say can’t be done without an order from the highest court in the presidential battleground state.
The misprint is a scratch no wider than a fingernail on a timing mark at the edge of the ballot, and it does not affect any contests, candidates or ballot referenda. The purpose of the timing blocks, which are small black marks at the periphery of the ballot, are to instruct the machine on how to align the ballots so that they are properly counted, the clerks told the court.
The error was discovered earlier this month. The mistake was caught in time to reprint the ballots so that those used for early in-person voting, which began last week, are able to be counted, said Outagamie County Clerk Lori O’Bright.
State law requires defective ballots to be remade by the clerks so the machines can read them. Elections officials have expressed concern that mistakes could be made when duplicating voters’ marks from one ballot to another.
Duplicating the problem ballots “will be costly, incredibly time consuming, and will delay election results significantly,” the clerks told the court. It would take so long that clerks could not meet a 4 p.m. deadline the day after the election to count all of the ballots.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court is not required to take the case, which was filed directly with it. Clerks did not file with lower courts, as is usually done, because there would not be enough time for the case to work through the court system before the election.