Some Madison voters whose absentee ballots are two-to-four weeks late could face additional challenges in the upcoming April election. 

A recent Government Accountability Board statement revealed that at least 277 absentee ballots were sent out late to voters in Madison. In response to this delay, the board surveyed 1,851 municipal clerks who are responsible for sending out the absentee ballots.

The results of the survey found 65 of the clerks experienced a delay in distributing the absentee ballots, the statement said. Additionally, the statement said the United States Department of Justice believes this to be a violation of the recent Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, which works to protect the rights of voters abroad.

The statement said to avoid a court case, the DOJ and the GAB have come up with a consent decree as of March 23, which says as long as the absentee ballots are postmarked by April 3 and received by the extended release deadline, the absentee ballots will be counted in the Presidential Preference Primary election.

“Instead of going to court, U.S. DOJ filed a complaint and a consent decree, which is an out-of-court settlement,” Magney said. 

The process involved a judge signing off on the decree and the agreement that the GAB would follow the conditions set by the DOJ in that decree along with the federal department agreeing not to sue. 

Magney said that the GAB is taking action, as they know some of the ballots have already been sent out. He said they are contacting municipal clerks who have not yet sent out their absentee ballots as well as extending the deadline for the return of the absentee ballots equivalent to the amount of time the initial ballots were delayed. 

Mike McCabe, spokesperson for watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, emphasized the importance of absentee ballots for citizens. He said they are convenient for “voters of every stripe.” 

“Absentee ballots have a huge benefit,” he said. “It is one of the ways Wisconsin has been able to surpass the national voter average turnout.”

McCabe said absentee ballots are a way that voters who are unable to be present on Election Day can still have a chance to have their voices heard.

Adrianna Viswanatha contributed to this report.