Trump files lawsuit challenging Wisconsin election results

Published 7:26 pm Tuesday, December 1, 2020

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MADISON, Wis. — President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Wisconsin seeking to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state’s two most Democratic counties, a longshot attempt to overturn Joe Biden’s win in a battleground state he lost by nearly 20,700 votes.

Trump filed the day after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the chairwoman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission certified Biden as the winner of the state’s 10 Electoral College votes. Trump asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case directly, rather than have it start in a lower court, and order Evers to withdraw the certification.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court gave Evers until 8:30 p.m. Tuesday to respond to the lawsuit, an unusually tight deadline that speaks to how quickly the court is likely to decide the case.

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The state’s highest court, controlled 4-3 by conservatives, also is considering whether to hear two other lawsuits filed by conservatives  seeking to invalidate ballots cast during the presidential election. Separately, two Wisconsin Republicans filed a new federal lawsuit Tuesday that mirrors some of Trump’s claims and asks a judge to declare him the winner in Wisconsin.

Trump’s lawsuit repeats many claims he made during a recount of votes in Milwaukee and Dane counties that large swaths of absentee votes were illegally cast. Local officials rejected his claims during the recount, and Trump is challenging procedures that have been in place for years and never been found to be illegal.

Trump is not challenging any ballots cast in conservative counties he won.

Biden campaign spokesman Nate Evans called the lawsuit “completely baseless and not rooted in facts on the ground.” Democratic Gov. Tony Evers said it was “without merit.”

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, noted that the lawsuit doesn’t allege that anyone was ineligible to vote, but instead seeks to create a two-tiered election system where voters in Dane and Milwaukee counties are disenfranchised “under much stricter rules than citizens in the rest of the state.”

Trump’s Wisconsin attorney, Jim Troupis, said in a statement that voters “deserve election processes with uniform enforcement of the law, plain and simple.”

Similar Trump campaign lawsuits have failed in other battleground states.

In Phoenix, a judge has scheduled a Thursday trial  in Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward’s lawsuit that seeks to annul Biden’s victory in the state. A judge is letting Ward’s lawyers and experts compare the signatures on 100 mail-in ballot envelopes with signatures on file to determine whether there were any irregularities. Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ office, which certified Arizona’s election results on Monday, said there was no factual basis for conducting such a review.

Trump is running out of time to have his legal cases heard. The Electoral College is scheduled to meet on Dec. 14 and Congress is to count the votes on Jan. 6.

Trump’s Wisconsin lawsuit seeks to discard 170,140 absentee ballots where there was not a written application on file and all absentee ballots cast in person during the two weeks before Election Day.

People who vote in person early fill out a certification envelope for their ballot that serves as the written record. 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.

Trump wants to toss 5,517 ballots where election clerks filled in missing address information on the certification envelope where the ballot is inserted. The practice has been in place for at least the past 11 elections, and the state elections commission told clerks it was OK.

Trump also challenges 28,395 absentee ballots where a voter declared themselves to be “indefinitely confined” under the law. Such a declaration exempts voters from having to show photo identification to cast a ballot. The Wisconsin Supreme Court in March ruled that it is up to individual voters to determine whether they are indefinitely confined, a designation used by nearly four times as many voters this year than in 2016 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump also alleges that Madison opened illegal voting sites when the city held events at parks where election workers accepted 17,271 completed absentee ballots from voters looking to avoid crowds and mail delays. City officials said the poll workers at the 220 parks served the same purpose as ballot drop boxes.

The federal lawsuit came from Bill Feehan, the La Crosse County Republican Party chairman, and Derrick Van Orden, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress this year in western Wisconsin. Sidney Powell, a firebrand conservative attorney who was removed from Trump’s legal team, is among the lawyers.

Van Orden said after the lawsuit was filed that he had spoken with someone in Powell’s office about the case but had not given permission to be named as a litigant. Van Orden said he tried calling Powell to ask that his name be removed but could not get through. Powell did not immediately respond to an Associated Press email seeking comment.

“Why they would want me on there, I’m not quite sure,” Van Orden said.

The same lawsuit asks for 48 hours of security footage from the “TCF Center,” which is in Detroit, not in Wisconsin.

Also Tuesday, Republicans on the Wisconsin Elections Commission asked the Democratic chairwoman to resign  after she finalized election results on Monday. They argued the commission should have been involved with that process, while the chair, who refused to resign, said she was following state law and precedent.