The September 17 deadline for when the 1,850 municipal clerks need to mail out absentee ballots to Wisconsin voters who asked for one is set in state law.
About 1 million voters in Wisconsin have requested ballots, and more than 300,000 of those ballots have already been prepared by local clerks to go out to voters, according to Meagan Wolfe, the chief elections official for the state of Wisconsin, who was speaking to reporters on a media call when the court order came down.
When asked what would happen if the justices order another candidate to be added to the ballots after they have already been printed, Wolfe said that “it would be incredibly complicated and difficult.” Clerks in smaller jurisdictions across the state are likely to have already sent some ballots to voters, Wolfe added, though she was unable to say exactly how many were sent.
The state’s high court said the Wisconsin Election Commission must inform the court by the end of the day on Thursday whether absentee ballots have been mailed. The court is asking for the names and addresses of everyone who has been mailed an absentee ballot, as well the date the ballot was mailed. On top of that, the court ordered the commission to provide it with the names of officials who requested that ballots be printed as well as the date and time those requests were made.
Attorney Jeffrey Mandell, who is representing one of the people who sued to keep Hawkins off the ballot, said that changing the ballots at this point would inject uncertainty into an already fragile 2020 election process.
“This could lead to unprecedented chaos,” Mandell said.
In 2016, Green Party candidate Jill Stein received 31,072 votes in Wisconsin. That tally is greater than the 22,748-vote margin that handed Trump a victory in the state over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
CNN’s Caroline Kelly, Eric Bradner, Veronica Stracqualursi and Abby Phillip contributed to this report.