Judge Dismisses GOP Lawsuit Challenging Ballot Design

Waukesha County Judge Says Party Leaders Have No Standing To Sue

Photo: Michael Newman (CC-BY-NC-ND).

A Waukesha County judge has dismissed a Republican lawsuit challenging the fairness of the state’s new model ballots.

Judge James Kieffer made his ruling less than an hour after hearing arguments in the case. Kieffer said neither Assembly Speaker Robin Vos nor Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald had standing to bring the lawsuit, since neither lawmaker had been harmed by the ballots. Kieffer also ruled that if Republicans had complaints with the ballots, they should address those to the Government Accountability Board first before turning to the courts.

Vos and Fitzgerald contended that because the model ballots don’t include enough separation between the name of an office and the first candidate for that office, voters would assume there was only one candidate, or that the first person listed was the incumbent. Democrats are listed first on Wisconsin ballots this year because their party won the presidential race in 2012.

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Kieffer noted that clerks from all 72 counties could potentially design different ballots that deviate from the state’s suggestions. Several clerks from Democratic counties have already said publicly that they won’t use the state’s model ballots and will instead stick to older designs.

Government Accountability Board Director Kevin Kennedy said after the ruling on Wednesday that he was pleased with the outcome.

“Once the ballots are printed, if you take a look at those 72 ballots which are very similar in many cases to ballots that have been used in prior elections — including 2010 and 2012 for the November elections — the idea that there is significant potential for voter confusion, I think, is not supported,” said Kennedy.

Attorney Joseph Olsson, who represented Republicans, said that he thought the lawmakers had exhausted all other options to deal with the ballots.

“But such is the case with litigation,” said Olsson. “The judge gets to make the decision on that, and I don’t.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with details from the 3:30 p.m. news broadcast.