Decisions On Wisconsin Election Integrity Lawsuits Revealed As Election Day Nears
Authored by Jeff Louderback via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
With frequent comments about the topic from gubernatorial and Senate candidates, and multiple legal rulings announced this week, election integrity remains front and center in Wisconsin as the Nov. 8 election day draws closer.
Wisconsin Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels drew attention earlier this week when he told a group of supporters at a campaign stop that “Republicans will never lose another election in Wisconsin after I’m elected governor.”
American Bridge 21st Century, a left-leaning political action committee, released an audio clip of Michels making that statement, according to Business Insider.
Michels, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, is running against incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
On Twitter, Evers responded to the audio clip by saying, “Tim Michels is a danger to our democracy.”
Evers spokesperson Sam Roecker released a statement claiming that “Tim Michels has made it clear he will do anything in his power to make it harder for Wisconsinites to vote and could even overturn the fair results of our elections if he doesn’t like the outcome.”
The Michels campaign said that the comment had nothing to do with election integrity and that Michels would generate support for Republican candidates by incorporating “lower taxes, better schools, uniform election laws, and safer communities.”
“While revving up supporters to get out and vote, Tim was referring to winning and leading and then being rewarded by voters for doing a good job,” Michels spokesperson Brian Fraley said in a statement.
“Any attempt to make more out of that quip shows just how pathetic and desperate Tony Evers and his supporters are getting as we approach election day. They want to talk about anything other than his four years of failure.”
Multiple lawsuits have been filed in Wisconsin focused on which absentee ballots can be counted or rejected.
As of Oct. 25, more than 503,000 absentee ballots in Wisconsin had been returned or cast in person, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC).
On Nov. 2, Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas denied an organization’s request that local election clerks accept absentee ballots that contain partial addresses of witnesses.
In his order, Colas wrote that Wisconsin elections have been conducted and absentee ballots have been counted for 56 years without a legally binding definition of a witness address on a ballot.
“Since then, until the present, clerks have been legally free to interpret the term,” Colas said. “They presumably have done so in good faith, in keeping with their oaths of office, and drawing on the non-binding guidance issued by the WEC and its predecessors, and perhaps also on advice from their jurisdictions’ attorneys.”
Current guidance from the WEC stipulates that an address is defined as having three components: a street number, street name, and municipality.
Rise, Inc., a group with locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin, argued that Wisconsin election clerks are not consistently applying that definition.
The organization sought an order that would require an address only to have enough information to determine the location of the witness.
Colas ruled it was inappropriate to issue an order that changes the status quo.
In another case, the 1st District Court of Appeals on Nov. 1 declined to hear an appeal of Dane County Circuit Judge Nia Trammell’s ruling rejecting a request from the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin that an address can only be missing when the entire field is left blank.
The case was not heard because it did not meet the criteria for granting an appeal, according to the appeals court.
Similar to what Colas ruled, Trammell said that loosening the witness address requirement “would upend the status quo and not preserve it” and “frustrate the electoral process by causing confusion.”
In an unrelated matter, a Wisconsin judge on Nov. 2 granted the Republican National Committee’s request for a temporary injunction ordering Green Bay County Clerk Celestine Jeffreys to not violate state laws that permit the public to watch the election and voting process, including in-person absentee voting.
According to the lawsuit, Jeffreys has allegedly been prohibiting members of the public “from observing all aspects of the in-person absentee voting process” that started on Oct. 25 at the city clerk’s office.
“In less than 24 hours, the RNC successfully sued and won in Green Bay to ensure the city’s Democrat election officials follow the law on the books in Wisconsin,” RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. “Bipartisan poll watching is a constitutional right in Wisconsin, and now the Green Bay Clerk will have to let them in the room to observe.”
In July, the Wisconsin Supreme Court banned the use of absentee ballot drop boxes in the state. Only the voter can return a ballot in person, the conservative-led body determined.
A federal judge later ruled that voters with disabilities are allowed to obtain third-party assistance for mailing ballots or delivering them to a clerk.
Last week, the Wisconsin 2nd District Court of Appeals decided not to hear an appeal of a Waukesha County circuit court judge’s ruling on Oct. 5 that prohibits voters who already cast a ballot from voiding it and voting again.
The decision applies to voters who cast absentee ballots and vote early at precincts.
The practice, which is known as ballot spoiling, had been permitted for numerous election cycles in the state.
On Oct. 5, Waukesha County Circuit Judge Brad Schimel ruled that Wisconsin voters can’t cancel their ballot and cast a new one once a vote has been cast.
Schimel granted a request for a temporary injunction against the practice, which was encouraged by the WEC at offices throughout the state.
Wisconsin voter Nancy Kormanik sued the WEC over its guidance that states that clerks can give completed and submitted absentee ballots to voters. Doing so violates a Wisconsin law that states that the clerk “shall not return the ballot to the elector” once submitted, according to the lawsuit.
The guidance was issued after multiple candidates dropped out of high-profile races, including Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate.
A Republican and former Wisconsin attorney general, Schimel sided with Kormanik and ordered an injunction effective Oct. 7.
At an emergency meeting last week, the WEC unanimously voted to rescind their previous guidance and no longer allow ballot spoiling.
As Wisconsin voters head to the polls in the final days of early voting—and on Election Day—election integrity is a concern for many residents.
A Sept. 22 poll from Marquette University Law School in Wisconsin illustrates the division over the topic between the two parties.
Among likely voters surveyed, 86 percent of Democrats and 12 percent of Republicans are “very confident” that votes in Wisconsin were accurately cast and counted in the 2020 presidential election.
Those figures include independent voters who lean Democratic or Republican.
The poll also revealed that 62 percent of Republicans weren’t too confident or weren’t confident at all in the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state while 6 percent of Democrats feel that way.
When early voting started in Wisconsin on Oct. 25, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes cast his ballot at a community center in Milwaukee. After leaving the precinct, he stood outside with supporters on a rain-soaked morning and talked about the importance of heading to the polls.
“One of the reasons I decided to come out here and vote early is to make sure that people have trust and faith in the process,” Barnes said. “You know, we’re gonna make sure all the ballots are counted. Make sure that this is a safe and secure process.
“I trust the process. I voted early in at least three of the last five elections,” Barnes added. “I know people like to show up on Election Day. It’s sort of ritualistic in many ways. But sometimes we have obligations—things come up—and so it’s good for folks to get out there get it done early, and then use the additional time to encourage other people to vote to win.”
Johnson encouraged early voting at a campaign stop in Waukesha the same day that Barnes cast his vote in Milwaukee.
During a town hall last week, he told supporters, “I would recommend early voting if you have a Republican election clerk. I’m not sure I would recommend a Republican go vote in Milwaukee. I don’t know about the bipartisan observation of those early votes. It might be possible.”
The comments were light-hearted humor, a Johnson spokesperson said.
“Obviously the senator meant that as a tongue-in-cheek comment,” Alexa Henning said. “The senator was just in Waukesha Tuesday where he encouraged early voting. We are confident we have Republican observers and poll workers in place. Wisconsinites should turn out and vote everywhere, including Milwaukee.”