The number of indefinitely confined voters has increased over 200% in little more than a year
Oct. 29, 2020
Election officials across Wisconsin have been shocked by the number of voters claiming to be “indefinitely confined” in the run up to the election next month.
Since the Spring General Election in April, another 49,769 voters have registered as indefinitely confined. That’s an increase of 26 percent. The total number of indefinitely confined voters in Wisconsin now stands at 243,900. Last year, the total number was only 72,000. That is an increase of 238% in just over a year.
Those voters enjoy a special perk when requesting an absentee ballot – they are exempt for the state’s voter ID law.
Starting in May, local clerks bombarded the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) with questions about verifying those voters’ claims. How can they make sure those voters aren’t just trying to get around the law?
WEC told the clerks they are under no obligation to confirm voters’ “indefinitely confined” status. If they want to try, “they should do so using discretion and respect to voters’ privacy regarding their medical and disability status,” WEC advised in a May 13th memo.
However, even if clerks are able to confirm a voter is not really indefinitely confined, there’s really nothing they can do about it.
“All changes to status must be made in writing and by the voter’s request,” WEC explained.
Since then the number of “indefinitely confined” voters has soared. Every county in the state has seen a significant increase. On the low end, Grant County saw a 10% increase (with 142 individuals) and on the high end, Menominee County had a 1000% increase (60 individuals).
Milwaukee County went from 42,359 to 53,494 – a 29% increase. Dane County went from 19,406 to 24,446 – a 26% increase. Both counties actively encouraged voters to identify as indefinitely confined in the run up to the April election.
Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell even took it upon himself to declare all voters in the county were indefinitely confined. After he did that, the Legislative Reference Bureau quickly explained that anyone falsely claiming to be indefinitely confined is breaking the law.
— MacIver News Service (@NewsMacIver) October 28, 2020
“If a voter votes absentee knowing that he or she is not confined because of age, illness, infirmity, or disability, he or she could not only face civil and criminal penalties, but also have their vote challenged during the canvass. A court would need to determine whether a voter, in committing this act, relied in good faith on the instructions of a municipal clerk,” LRB wrote in a Mar. 26th memo.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court was asked to weighed in on the issue and heard arguments on Sep. 29th. The Republican Party of Wisconsin wanted clarification on who exactly qualifies as an indefinitely confined voter. The court has not yet taken any action on that.
MacIver News reached out to the top five counties with the most new indefinitely confined voters. The county clerks do not keep track of that information and referred MacIver to the individual towns and municipalities.