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Report: Wisconsin election clerks may have unlawfully altered mail ballots: 'The statute is very, very clear'

Biden leads Trump by a little more than 20,000 votes in Wisconsin

Andy Manis/Getty Images

Wisconsin election clerks are being accused of violating state law regarding absentee ballots.

Although Election Day is over, legal challenges across the country are heating up as vigilant Americans scrutinize the electoral process. Whether lawsuits or vigilance pay off remains to be seen. But in a year where many elections are determined by razor-thin margins, the court system could play a greater role in determining election results than ever before.

What are the details?

According to WISN-AM, Wisconsin clerks and poll workers may have "unlawfully altered witness statements" on thousands of mail-in ballots.

Wisconsin state law requires that absentee ballots are signed by a witness, who is also required to list their address. In fact, the Wisconsin Elections Commission circulated a flier in August reminding voters that mail ballots are required to have the voter's information, the voter's signature, and a qualified witness' signature and address.

"If any of the required information above is missing, your ballot will not be counted," the WEC said.

However, just weeks before Election Day, the WEC told clerks that missing witness information needs to be corrected, of course — but the witnesses don't have to do it themselves.

The October directive said:

Please note that the clerk should attempt to resolve any missing witness address information prior to Election Day if possible, and this can be done through reliable information (personal knowledge, voter registration information, through a phone call with the voter or witness). The witness does not need to appear to add a missing address.

Sources told WISN this directive resulted in the inadvertent invalidation of thousands of ballots because clerks filled in the information themselves after the ballots were cast.

"The statute is very, very clear," retired Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman told WISN. "If an absentee ballot does not have a witness address on it, it's not valid. That ballot is not valid."

"In defiance of and direct contradiction to the statute, the Wisconsin Elections Commission gave guidance — that is, cover — to all 72 county clerks and turned the statute on his head," Gableman added. "They said, 'Gee, we know the law says an absentee ballot without the witness address is not valid, but county clerk, you have a duty to go ahead and look up on your own the witness' address if there's no address on the absentee ballot."

Red pen controversy?

President Donald Trump's campaign released a statement last Wednesday claiming there were "reports of irregularities in several Wisconsin counties."

Campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh later clarified they were referring to ballots in heavily Democratic Milwaukee County that had allegedly been "cured" by poll workers, meaning they "corrected or added information to the ballot itself," using red pens, WUMW-FM reported.

"We estimate that 15-20% of absentee ballots in Milwaukee County were tainted in this manner," Murtaugh explained. "This is also only an estimate because our legal volunteers were prevented from having meaningful access all of the time."

The campaign's statement would corroborate what sources told WISN, that thousands of ballots were altered by poll workers using red pens. The red ink would make altered ballots easily identifiable in a recount.

And Trump's campaign has requested a vote recount in the Badger State, where Biden currently leads Trump by just 20,000 votes.

What did officials say?

Milwaukee Election Commission executive director Claire Woodall-Vogg did not respond to requests for comment from WUMW.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe last Thursday offered some possible explanations as to why ballots were altered, but did not address the Wisconsin state law that mandates the witness include their address on the mail ballot for it to be valid.

However, Reid Magney, a spokesman for the WEC, claimed poll workers were not altering the ballots themselves — but the envelopes in which they were mailed.

"Just the other thing to add is they're not curing the ballot itself with the person's votes on it. It's the certificate envelope that gets cured," he said, WUMW reported.

TheBlaze has reached out to the WEC, but did not hear back by publishing time.

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