The situation arose because of a conflict between state election law and the state constitution, which lays out a tight time frame between a primary and recall election, said Kevin Kennedy, director of the state Government Accountability Board.
Under one state law, absentee ballots should have been available Tuesday because the recall election of Gov. Scott Walker and four GOP state senators is three weeks away, on June 5. But another law says ballots cannot be made available in a general election until after the period to ask for a recount in the primary passes, and that won't happen for the May 8 primary until Friday, Kennedy said.
Normally, there is a longer period between a primary and general election. But the state constitution requires four weeks between a primary and a recall election. That causes conflicts between the absentee schedule and the election certification schedule, Kennedy said.
As a result, a small number of people who will be out of town June 5 won't be able to vote because they won't be able to get an absentee ballot this week, Kennedy said Tuesday.
"We're dealing with a short time frame," Kennedy said. "Some people are going to get caught."
State law used to allow election clerks to email absentee ballots to voters at the discretion of the clerks. Voters would then fill out the ballots and return them through traditional mail. But last year, Republican lawmakers eliminated the ability of clerks to do that except in limited circumstances.
"It would be wise to go back to allowing municipal clerks to transmit (ballots) electronically. We thought it was shortsighted" for legislators to change that law, Kennedy said.
The Journal-Sentinel goes on to report that the Republican who amended the law claimed the change was needed "because some municipalities emailed out ballots while others did not, and she thought all communities should handle it the same way." And her even weaker reasoning was that "what voters returned by traditional mail had to be transferred by clerks onto ballots, which she said could be time-consuming for staff on election day."
While this development doesn't seem, in and of itself, to be an issue nefariously targeted at undermining the Scott Walker recall election specifically (as it had appeared in some of the more vague reportage I'd seen elsewhere this morning), it's certainly troubling for those folks leaving town this week who will not receive ballots in time to vote, and who will have no recourse to receive them while overseas. Those folks are most likely disenfranchised, whether that was the plan or not, thanks to the short-sighted amendment to state law written by state Sen. Mary Lazich, Republican of New Berlin.
I'll be surprised, however, if we don't see more very specific dirty tricks in the days ahead, meant to undermine the recall elections specifically, akin to the coordinated hoaxes we saw during the group of WI state Senate recall elections that took place last Summer. During those, for example, deceptive absentee ballot request mailers were sent out by the Koch Brothers-funded Americans For Prosperity and a number of other Rightwing groups.
The mailers, which offered incorrect dates and deadlines, and instructed voters to send back the forms to the PO Box of a "Right to Life" group in Wisconsin, were sent out not only by the Kochs' AFP, but almost identical misleading mailers were sent out by a mysterious "group" calling itself "United Sportsmen of Wisconsin". As The BRAD BLOG subsequently reported, to the surprise of almost nobody, the front man for that purported WI gun organization, John W. Connors, turns out to have been a longtime AFP affiliate and National Director, with a history of running deceptive campaigns.
Watch for these same insidious democracy haters and their ugly dirty tricks tactics to appear very soon now in advance of the historic June 5th recall elections of Walker, his Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state Senators whose seats --- along with the political balance of the state Senate --- are all now up for grabs.