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President Trump sues to throw out over 200,000 Dane Co. & Milwaukee Co. ballots

The suit was filed Tuesday in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Published: Dec. 1, 2020 at 10:20 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 1, 2020 at 9:36 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - President Donald Trump wants the Wisconsin Supreme Court to throw out hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots cast in Dane Co. and Milwaukee Co.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in the state’s highest court, lawyers for the president’s reelection campaign did not allege any fraud occurred. However, they contend the absentee ballots were either improperly requested or turned in and, therefore, should not count.

The lawsuit challenges the propriety of the votes of nearly a quarter-million people between the two counties. Their voters are the only ones affected by the case because those two deep blue counties were the only ones where recounts were requested.

On Monday, with both recounts completed, the Wisconsin Elections Commission Chair signed off on the final vote tally, which showed President-elect Joe Biden had won Wisconsin and its ten electoral votes by around 20,700 votes. Gov. Tony Evers certified the results shortly thereafter.

In a statement, Trump campaign lawyer Jim Troupis stated, “We know with absolute certainty illegal ballots have unduly influenced the state’s election results.” This contradicts several local and state officials who have repeatedly stressed there was no evidence of fraud.

Asked about the lawsuit during a Tuesday COVID-19 news conference, Evers said he believed the election was run fairly and that “the lawsuit filed by the president has no merit.”

“Numbers don’t lie,” Evers said, continuing, “I personally carried out my duty to certify that election.”

Gov. Evers filed an opposition to the Trump campaign’s lawsuit Monday night, calling it a “a shocking and outrageous assault on our democracy.” The governor also argues that the state high court has no jurisdiction in this case, as a state statute requires any appeal must begin in a circuit court.

A vast majority of those ballots (approx. 170,000) should not have counted because there was not a written application on file, the president’s lawyers argue.

People who vote in person early fill out a certification envelope for their ballot that serves as the written record, the Associated Press’ Scott Bauer explained. But, the vast majority of absentee requests these days are made online, with a voter’s name entered into an electronic log with no paper record.

Everyone in Madison who turned in their ballots at one of the voting drop sites set up across the city should have their votes thrown out as well, President Trump’s campaign argues.

Over 17,000 people who live in the city turned in their ballot that way, during what the city had dubbed Democracy in the Park events, according to the lawsuit’s numbers. Those ballots should not count because they did not follow state laws for establishing absentee polling places.

The city challenged similar claims made by Republicans at the time by arguing the procedures established by the City Clerk to secure ballots at the over 200 drop sites are equivalent to the procedures used to secure all absentee ballots, noting the ballots are in secured envelopes with tamper-evident seals and there is a publicly available chain of custody log for them.

The lawsuit also argues the nearly 29,000 people who declared themselves “indefinitely confined” should not have their votes counted as well. The declaration allows a voter to bypass a requirement to include a copy of a valid ID for voting.

The issue stems from a March controversy in which Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell and Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson told voters while COVID-19 spreads, they can claim they are “indefinitely confined on their absentee ballot application, which allows them to bypass a requirement to include a copy of a valid ID for voting.

The state Republican Party filed a lawsuit at that time and the Wisconsin Elections Commission investigated the matter. In a 3-3 vote, commissioners decided to take no action against McDonell and Christenson. WEC Administrator said that while the commission does not condone the option to circumvent the voter ID law, it is up to the voters to decide if they are “indefinitely confined.”

While the commission stated it’s up to the voter decide their own status in this regard, the Trump campaign states the county clerks should have been able to identify who was not “indefinitely confined” and purge them.

The Trump campaign also wants the court to reject 5,517 so-called “cured” ballots, in which election clerks filled in missing address information on absentee ballots. The WEC has argued that the long-standing practice is allowable because the law states the address needs to be there, but does not say who needs to add it.

The Associated Press points out that this practice has been in place for at least the past 11 elections.

“The procedures that are being challenged are ones that were known before the elections and in fact have been on the books in some cases for a number of years,” explained UW-Madison associate professor of law Robert Yablon.

Yablon went on to add the courts are unlikely to step in after votes have already been cast.

“The problem for the president and his attorneys in this lawsuit is that there’s simply no precedent for throwing out large quantities of ballots because of small technical defects,” he explained.

A spokesperson for the Biden campaign described the lawsuit as “baseless and not rooted in the facts on the ground.”

Biden’s camp argued the president’s lawyers were trying to eliminate the votes of hundreds of thousands of people who were simply following the instructions laid out for them by elections officials and that the Trump campaign’s objections had already been rejected during the recount process.

President Trump has less than two weeks to make his case to state justices before the Electoral College is set to meet. They gather on December 14 and Congress is set to count their votes on January 6.

Wisconsin’s Supreme Court has a 4-3 conservative-leaning majority, but Yablon said the president is unlikely to see success in the state. Several similar lawsuits have been thrown out elsewhere, he said, by judges appointed by both liberals and conservatives.

“Almost uniformly, those judges have not embraced the president’s claims,” Yablon explained.

Yablon said the Wisconsin Supreme Court will want to issue a decision before the Electoral College meets.

“Once those votes are cast on December 14 then I think truly the writing is on the wall, if it isn’t already,” Yablon said.

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