County and municipal clerks and poll workers across Wisconsin may have unlawfully altered witness statements on thousands of mail-in ballots across the state, "The Dan O'Donnell Show" has learned.
Wisconsin Statute 6.86 provides that an absentee ballot must be signed by a witness, who is also required to list his or her address. If a witness address is not listed, then the ballot is considered invalid and must be returned to the voter to have the witness correct.
Instead, multiple sources tell "The Dan O'Donnell Show," municipal clerks and vote counters across the state simply filled out witness signatures themselves. Acting on false and unlawful advice from the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC), these clerks may have inadvertently invalidated thousands of absentee votes.
"The statute is very, very clear," said retired Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who worked as a poll watcher in Milwaukee on Election Day. "If an absentee ballot does not have a witness address on it, it's not valid. That ballot is not valid."
The WEC sent uniform instructions to voters with their mail-in ballots that informed them that "your witness must sign and provide their full address (street number, street name, city) in the Certification of Witness section" and warned that "if any of the required information above is missing, your ballot will not be counted."
However, on October 19th, the WEC sent instructions to clerks that they can simply fill in the witness address themselves so that the ballot would not be invalidated.
"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)," WEC wrote. "The witness does not need to appear to add a missing address."
"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 said. "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."
Anticipating a legal challenge to this seemingly highly unlawful advice, the WEC instructed clerks to write in these witness addresses in red pen so that they would be easy to find during a recount or audit of the vote.
The Republican Party of Wisconsin estimates that thousands of witness addresses may have been changed, thus invalidating the ballots on which they appeared. The statutory remedy for this is to subtract a commensurate number of votes for the candidates for whom those ballots were cast, meaning that vote totals may substantially change.
President Trump's campaign is investigating the scale to which clerks and election workers were altering ballots as well as several other incidents that it has termed "irregularities." President Trump has also publicly called for a recount of Wisconsin's vote.
Former Vice President Joe Biden won the state by roughly 20,000 votes, a margin of less than one percent.