Return to News Oct 02, 2023

Wisconsin Voters Challenge Absentee Ballot Witness Requirement

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On October 2, Elias Law Group attorneys representing a group of Wisconsin voters filed a new voting rights lawsuit seeking to overturn Wisconsin’s requirement that an adult witness vouch for the qualifications of an absentee voter. The Witness Requirement forces absentee voters to find a qualified witness to attest to their ability to vote and puts voters at risk of disenfranchisement due to minor technical errors or omissions related to the witness attestation. Federal law prohibits any state from subjecting its citizens to a voucher requirement in order to cast their ballot.  

“The pernicious practice of requiring voters to seek a witness who can vouch for their qualifications can be traced back to efforts to disenfranchise Black voters in southern states after the Civil War,” said Elias Law Group partner Uzoma Nkwonta. “For almost 50 years, federal law has prohibited these requirements to ensure that no U.S. citizen is ever subject to such a burdensome restriction on their right to vote. Unfortunately, to this day Wisconsin law still requires absentee voters to locate a qualified adult witness in order to cast their ballot. Wisconsin’s Witness Requirement is a clear violation of the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act, and we are proud to represent Wisconsin voters in their effort to overturn this unlawful restriction.    

“By enforcing and administering the Witness Requirement, Defendants have injured and will continue to injure Wisconsin absentee voters,” the complaint argues. The requirement to locate a witness is, “in itself, a concrete and particularized burden on Plaintiffs’ legally protected right to vote,” and subjects Plaintiffs to “a risk of disenfranchisement because of technical and immaterial witness-related errors.”  

A nonpartisan 2021 Legislative Audit Bureau study of a random sample of nearly 15,000 absentee ballot certificates found that nearly 7% of the certificates cast were missing at least one element of the witness’s address, putting the ballot at risk of rejection. In fact, the Wisconsin Election Commission has admitted that at least 2,200 absentee ballots were rejected on certificate grounds during the 2022 general election cycle alone.   

Read the full lawsuit here.  

Elias Law Group is a mission-driven firm committed to helping Democrats win, citizens vote, and progressives make change.