Judge rules use of vans in absentee voting violates election law

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(The Center Square) – A state judge has sided with a registered Wisconsin voter, saying use of vans for in-person absentee voting in 2022 was not fair and violated election law.

Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz on Monday ruled for plaintiff in Kenneth Brown v. Wisconsin Elections Commission and Tara McMenamin. The decision from the bench said even though state law doesn’t explicitly outlaw using a mobile voting van as did Racine in 2022, it doesn’t mean it is permitted.

McMenamin is Racine’s city clerk and used the mobile van in different neighborhoods across the city. The lawsuit said that favored Democrats and Gasiorkiewicz agreed.

The judge wrote, “No defendant or intervener can point to any statute authorizing the use of mobile van absentee ballot sites; instead, the defendants argue no statute expressly prohibits them. The absence of an expressed prohibition however, does not mean mobile absentee ballot sites comport to procedures specified in the election laws. Nothing in the statutory language detailing the procedures by which absentee ballots may be cast mentions mobile van absentee ballot sites or anything like them. Such an interpretation was and is contrary to law.”

Additionally, he wrote, “The statute in question clearly and unequivocally indicates that chosen alternate absentee balance balloting sites cannot afford an advantage to any political party. it is the requirement either of the common Council in choosing alternate sites or the municipal clerk to see that sites chosen comply with this mandatory language. In the present case, the plaintiff provided a statistical study, which utilized the known historical data available at the time of the primary election that concluded the sites chosen clearly afforded an advantage to members of the Democratic Party.”

Actions of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, and its administrator Meagan Wofle, were also noted.

Gasiorkiewicz wrote, “Even more troubling is the discounting of the plaintiff’s submitted statistical study, by [the Elections Commision] when nothing opposed it existed in the record. Equally troubling is administrator Wolf’s decision inserting the terminology ‘relatively politically equitable’ and that the site distribution is ‘geographically equal’ and assertion that compliance with the statutory language would be ‘ an extremely complex undertaking’ and ‘may never have a universal applicable legal standard to apply.’ Plain unambiguous mandatory language in a state law may not be overlooked because compliance with it would be difficult.”

Lucas Vebber, deputy counsel for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty that represented Brown, said the judge’s ruling is a victory for state election laws.

“Wisconsin voters should know that their elections are secure, and that election administration does not favor one political party over another,” Vebber said. “This decision does just that. WILL’s policy and legal expertise allow us to hold government actors accountable to the rule of law at all levels.”

Intervenors on behalf of defendants included Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans; Democratic National Committee; and Black Leaders Organizing for Communities.

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