Memo: Laws didn’t prevent turning over ballots to auditors

City County Building

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — State and federal laws did not prevent Madison election officials from providing auditors access to election records, according to a memo by the Legislative Reference Bureau released Thursday by Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu.

The memo comes a day after nonpartisan attorneys for the Legislature said that Madison’s decision to prohibit auditors from handling the ballots was “arguably reasonable” under federal law, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

The dueling memos follow the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau’s report on how clerks complied with state laws in the presidential primary in April 2020 and the general election last November. The Audit Bureau’s report noted that Madison, Milwaukee County, and the town of Little Suamico in Oconto County did not allow auditors to physically handle ballots, citing ballot-security guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice.

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The Reference Bureau’s memo states that state law gives the Audit Bureau complete access to all records during an audit investigation and federal law and guidance does not prohibit an election official from handing over election records.

Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl told the Audit Bureau in late August that she would provide copies of ballots, absentee ballot envelopes and other election-related documents but would not supply the original documents.