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Use of ‘indefinite confinement’ increased statewide for 2020 election

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Those calling for an investigation of the presidential election in Wisconsin have cited it as an 'irregularity.' The use of absentee ballots marked 'indefinitely confined' increased dramatically in counties both blue and red last November.

Rep. Tom Tiffany (R - Minocqua) is one of two Wisconsin congressmen who objected to the certification of electoral votes. Tiffany said he believed the judges in dozens of cases filed by President Donald Trump's campaign failed to examine the merits of the claims before dismissing them.

Whether in real court, or the one of public opinion, the campaign has not produced any verifiable evidence of widespread voter fraud.

"Our laws in the state of Wisconsin, with regard to absentee voting, are not being followed," Tiffany said. "For many voters, they don't realize the law's not being followed because a few clerks, including the Dane County clerk are giving them inaccurate information."

Republicans in the spring took Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell to court over a Facebook post encouraging people to mark 'indefinitely confined' on their absentee ballots. They felt it was wrongly allowing people to get around the state's voter ID laws.

The state supreme court ruled McDonell was wrong to give that advice but, in its final ruling last month, determined it was ultimately up to voters and no one else to decide whether they meet the standard of being indefinitely confined.

"If it were true that my post were a Kim Kardashian-level social media post, why is Dane and Milwaukee middle of the pack in increased growth of indefinitely confined voters?" McDonell said.

A 27 News analysis of Wisconsin Elections Commission data on ballots marked indefinitely confined by county from 2016 to 2020 shows a marked increase in the provision's use.

However, that increase is near-universal across the state. In fact, some counties that President Trump won experienced a larger rate of increase than Dane and Milwaukee counties, who were the target of Trump lawsuits.

"This had nothing to do with the November election," McDonell said. "It's part of their effort to lie and lie and lie unless they win and then it's fine."

Reid Magney, spokesman for the elections commission, said roughly the same percentage of absentee ballots were marked 'indefinitely confined' statewide in 2016 and 2020. The difference driving the increase was more people voting absentee overall.

Tiffany said he felt state lawmakers should pursue legislation that will more clearly acceptable ways to obtain and cast absentee ballots, including statutes on when clerks can correct or fill in information on applications.

Tiffany said he felt the elections commission, which was created by Republican lawmakers, may not have been giving guidance to clerks consistent with state statute. Disagreements throughout 2020 often ended with the commission's six members stuck on 3-3 deadlocks along party lines.

"Our laws in the state of Wisconsin need to be much more strictly enforced," Tiffany said. "Both by local officials, as well as some state officials."

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A. J. Bayatpour

Capitol Bureau Chief

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