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The Huge Spike in Indefinitely Confined Voters in Dane & Milwaukee Counties

A chart of indefinitely confined voters.

The Wisconsin Republican Party, in a memo sent to all Republican County Party chairs in the state, is highlighting the whopping increase in “indefinitely confined” voters in Milwaukee and Dane Counties – voters who were allowed to bypass photo ID safeguards after what the party says was illegal guidance from election officials in those counties.

Since the start of the spring elections until now, the number of indefinitely confined requests increased by 1,062% in Dane County and 854% in Milwaukee County, says the memo. Simple web searches show some of these voters were not confined to their homes as claimed but rather had “traveled across the country, attended weddings, dined out at restaurants, and even attended anti-Trump protests after the election,” according to the state GOP.

The state GOP believes the guidance ran counter to Wisconsin state statutes, which read, “An elector who is indefinitely confined because of age, physical illness or infirmity or is disabled for an indefinite period may by signing a statement to that effect require that an absentee ballot be sent to the elector automatically for every election.”

Indefinitely confined voters
Chart in state gop memo

President Donald Trump is raising this very issue in the lawsuit he recently filed in Wisconsin, the memo notes. Indeed, the president’s lawsuit seeks to toss out the indefinitely confined votes.

In total, there were 15,000 voters in Dane and 31,000 voters in Milwaukee who claimed this status and had no ID on file with the clerk’s office,” says the memo, which was obtained by Wisconsin Right Now.

Map in state gop memo

Talk show host Dan O’Donnell previously found that people who voted as indefinitely confined “attended jazz concerts, parties, and weddings, went to work, and even traveled out of state. One woman even has a Facebook profile picture that includes the phrase ‘I cannot stay home, I’m a nurse.'”

According to WKOW, in 2016, 7% of absentee ballots were from indefinitely confined voters, 14% were in that category in April, and 11% were in the category in November 2020. However, the November tally amounted to more than 215,000 indefinitely confined ballots, compared to 160,000 in April.

The state GOP has sued on the issue. An earlier analysis of the issue by WTMJ-TV previously noted, “Republicans asked – and the state Supreme Court agreed to block that advice from the clerks. However, voters could still ask for an absentee ballot if indefinitely confined.” The story notes that the decision was left up to voters.

“For this specific group of voters clerks would have absolutely no idea if the people who are requesting and returning these ballots are in fact who they say they are,” the memo asserts.

In March, the Wisconsin State Journal reported on the new advice. “Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell on Wednesday gave all Dane County voters the go-ahead to indicate they are indefinitely confined to avoid having to upload their voter ID when requesting an absentee ballot due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” that article said. The article added, “McDonell later clarified that voters who do not need to be indefinitely confined shouldn’t use the indefinitely confined option.”

The Wisconsin Election Commission issued a memo last spring on the issue. It says in part:

Designation of indefinitely confined status is for each individual voter to make based upon their current circumstance. It does not require permanent or total inability to travel outside of the residence. The designation is appropriate for electors who are indefinitely confined because of age, physical illness or infirmity or are disabled for an indefinite period.

Indefinitely confined status shall not be used by electors simply as a means to avoid the photo ID requirement without regard to whether they are indefinitely confined because of age, physical illness, infirmity or disability.

The commission added, “We understand the concern over the use of indefinitely confined status and do not condone abuse of that option as it is an invaluable accommodation for many voters in Wisconsin. During the current public health crisis, many voters of a certain age or in at-risk populations may meet that standard of indefinitely confined until the crisis abates.”

According to the memo that the state GOP’s Political Director Jordan Moskowitz sent the Republican County Party Chairs, back in March, Wisconsin election officials in Milwaukee and Dane Counties “gave illegal guidance allowing voters to claim a status that was intended for voters who are confined to their homes for an unlimited or ‘indefinite’ amount of time.”

“The voters who claim this status vote under a different set of rules than the rest of the state,” the memo says, adding that voters who claims to be “indefinitely confined” are not required to submit a photo ID to request or return a ballot.”

The state GOP memo claims that “election officials in Dane and Milwaukee issued a public notice that illegally claimed all voters can claim this status due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In recent years, there have been around 50-60,000 people who claimed that status, but last spring, after the guidance from the clerks, the number “ballooned to more than 200,000 and rose to more than 250,000 by Nov. 3,” the memo says.

“The Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) provided data that shows since the start of the Spring Elections there was a 350 percent increase in the amount of voters claiming to be indefinitely confined.

The state GOP memo contain a map showing the increase in voters claiming the status from 2016 to 2020. Milwaukee and Dane Counties had dramatically more voters in that status than other areas of the state.

According to the state GOP, WEC officials acknowledged that “this massive surge of illegal claims was a problem they needed to fix, but not until after the election. The only authority to track down all these people who illegally claimed this status was not the responsibility of WEC, or even the officials who issued this illegal guidance, but to our municipal clerks who were already under the massive strain of dealing with a flood of absentee ballots.”

The GOP memo notes that the president’s team is also challenging other issues, such as,

Absentee ballots that were edited by clerks if information was missing.

Early in-person votes that did not include an absentee ballot application.

Votes that were returned in Madison as part of its “Democracy in the Parks” event.

In a response to the president’s lawsuit, Gov. Tony Evers responded that it “seeks nothing less than to overturn the will of nearly 3.3 million Wisconsin voters. It is a shocking and outrageous assault on our democracy.”

But the GOP memo notes that the Party is trying to preserve the election’s integrity.

“The Republican Party of Wisconsin has been highlighting the potential for abuse of this system for months and currently has a case in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court on indefinitely confined voters,” the memo says. “The misuse of this statute allows individuals the ability to dodge basic safeguards and undermine the integrity of our elections – this must be solved. We will continue to press this issue until there is a resolution.

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