State Watch

Wisconsin GOP asks judge to toss push for mail-in voting


Wisconsin Republicans asked a federal judge to toss a lawsuit brought by citizens who say health concerns amid the pandemic and inadequate mail-in balloting effectively disenfranchised thousands of voters in the April primary election.

GOP lawmakers asked the U.S. trial court judge in a Monday filing to dismiss the latest push to make mail-in voting easier. They argued that current restrictions, like requiring a photo ID to obtain an absentee ballot, are needed to “limit the fraud that is especially” prone to targeting voting-by-mail.

“This is another addition to the growing line of meritless lawsuits asking the federal courts to rewrite Wisconsin’s long-standing election laws,” wrote the Republican state lawmakers, who have asked to be added as defendants in the case.

The filing comes as Republicans, including in California, have challenged actions to make mailed-in ballots easier ahead of the November election. President Trump has claimed mail ballots are susceptible to fraud, although experts have cast doubt on those claims.

Under Wisconsin law, all voters are eligible to vote using an absentee ballot. But in addition to the photo ID requirement, voters must also sign their ballots before a witness.

The GOP-held legislature argues that such restrictions are needed to ensure the integrity of the vote, though election analysts and fact-checkers have found that voting fraud targeting absentee or mail-in balloting is extremely rare. 

The lawsuit was filed last month by three registered Wisconsin voters who say health concerns prevented them and thousands of others from participating in the April primary election amid the global pandemic. The primary took place after a legal wrangling between Gov. Tony Evers (D), who sought to delay the elections, and the GOP-led legislature, which successfully blocked a change of dates.

In addition to easing restrictions on mail-in voting, the plaintiffs are pushing for more absentee ballot drop boxes, a public education campaign on alternative voting methods and other changes. 

Without an overhaul of state voting procedures, they argued, more will be stripped of their right to vote in the November election, when Wisconsin may figure as a key battleground.

The lawsuit, which named the Wisconsin Elections Commission and various state officials as defendants, is backed by the groups Black Leaders Organizing for Communities and Disability Rights Wisconsin.

Joining the Republican Legislature in seeking to dismiss the case are the Wisconsin Republican Party and Republican National Committee. 

The GOP groups argued that rewriting state election rules would “undercut democratically enacted laws that protect voters and candidates” just months ahead of the next round of voting.

Wisconsin’s voting procedures have faced scrutiny since the run-up to its April 7 primary.

On the eve of the vote, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Wisconsin could not accept absentee ballots postmarked after its voting day. That decision came just hours after the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned Evers’s executive order to postpone the vote entirely.

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