President Donald Trump's campaign has filed suit asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to throw out hundreds of thousands of votes cast in the November 2020 election in Democratic strongholds of Dane and Milwaukee counties, an unprecedented step that would wipe out the victory here by Democratic President-elect Joe Biden.
The votes being challenged by the Trump campaign's lawsuit include 221,323 absentee ballots cast by voters in Dane and Milwaukee counties, including all of the in-person absentee ballots cast in those counties before Election Day.
While clerks in those counties were following guidance handed down for years by the Wisconsin Elections Commission, the Trump campaign argues that they violated absentee voting requirements spelled out in state law.
"The remedy for these violations is expressly dictated by statute," reads the Trump campaign's lawsuit. "Ballots issued, accepted, and/or counted in violation of the specific provisions at issue in this case cannot be 'included in the certified results of the 2020 Presidential Election.'"
Trump's lawsuit was not unexpected after the president himself tweeted over the weekend that the case would be brought after Wisconsin's partial recount was over.
Both Dane and Milwaukee counties completed recounts over the weekend requested and paid for by the Trump campaign. The recounts showed little change to election night results, leaving Biden 20,682 votes ahead of Trump in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat whose office will defend the state Elections Commission, said in a statement Tuesday that Trump's lawsuit was trying to disenfranchise voters based on where they lived.
"It seeks to establish a two-tiered system for votes cast in the presidential election, with citizens from two of our counties subject to disenfranchisement under much stricter rules than citizens in the rest of the state," Kaul said. "And it seeks to disenfranchise these voters based on post-election interpretations of the law that voters obviously couldn’t have known about when they cast their ballots."
Trump's lawsuit seeks to throw out absentee ballots cast by four groups of Dane and Milwaukee County voters.
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They include more than 170,000 ballots cast by Dane and Milwaukee County residents who voted in-person absentee before Election Day, commonly referred to as early voting. The Trump campaign did not challenge in-person absentee ballots cast in other counties where the president won.
They also include more than 5,500 ballots cast where clerks filled in a witness' missing address information, a practice endorsed by members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission four years ago.
Other ballots that would be rejected under the lawsuit include more than 28,000 cast by voters who said they were "indefinitely confined." Under Wisconsin law, indefinitely confined voters don't have to show a photo ID in order to receive an absentee ballot.
The Trump campaign is also challenging more than 17,000 ballots cast in Madison at "Democracy in the Park" events, where poll workers collected absentee ballots at parks throughout the city.
Trump's lawsuit comes a day after Wisconsin Elections Commission Chair Ann Jacobs, a Democrat, approved the final canvass of Wisconsin's election results, affirming Biden's victory. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers later said he had certified the results.
The move irked two of the GOP members of the commission who argued that they should have been involved in the decision to certify. Trump's lawsuit asked the state Supreme Court to block Evers' certification while the case proceeds.
This is the third case filed with the Wisconsin Supreme Court challenging the state's election results. The first was filed last week by a group of Wisconsin voters with the help of a law firm with Republican ties. The second was filed Friday on behalf of Dean W. Mueller of Chippewa Falls by his wife, attorney Karen L. Mueller.
There are signs that the court wants to deal with the Trump campaign's lawsuit quickly. Justices set an 8:30 p.m. deadline Tuesday for parties to file briefs responding to the case. That's an especially quick turnaround for a lawsuit that was filed Tuesday morning.
This will be the campaign's first test before the court of last resort in Wisconsin, where conservatives justices hold a 4-3 majority. The Trump campaign's lawsuits in other battleground states around the country have failed as the president's allegations of widespread voter fraud have never been proven.