A federal lawsuit filed by three voters in Wisconsin seeks to have hundreds of thousands of ballots thrown out in three counties, including in the state’s two largest counties, which are Democratic strongholds.
The lawsuit filed on Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Green Bay contends that the absentee voting process in Milwaukee County, Dane County (where Wisconsin’s capital of Madison is located), and Menominee County included “illegal votes” and thus must have their presidential election results invalidated. If the long-shot lawsuit succeeds, it would add the state’s 10 Electoral College votes to President Trump’s ledger.
The plaintiffs focus part of their argument on “indefinitely confined voters.” State law allows that self-reporting as indefinitely confined to vote without a photo ID due to confinement to their residence because of age, physical illness, or disability for an indefinite period of time. This year, the number of indefinitely confined voters increased by a striking rate amid the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, some 72,000 voters said they were indefinitely confined. That number reportedly exploded to 243,000 voters this year.
In March, the Dane County clerk drew a flurry of controversy when he said that the state’s order met the threshold for voters to list that they were indefinitely confined, thus bypassing the requirement to provide photo ID. Milwaukee County’s clerk offered similar guidance, citing the pandemic. Republicans quickly cried foul, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court later sided with the GOP and said that the “advice was legally incorrect.”
Despite the state Supreme Court’s rebuke, a GOP official told the Washington Examiner earlier this week that voters who listed themselves as indefinitely confined and requested an absentee ballot during the primaries automatically received another absentee ballot for the November election without being asked again to provide photo ID.
The Thursday federal lawsuit contends that in addition to Dane and Milwaukee counties, Menominee also encouraged people to request absentee ballots. Menominee is a small, majority-Native American county that is heavily Democratic and cast 1,303 ballots in favor of President-elect Joe Biden to 278 for Trump.
The lawsuit also raises issues with absentee ballot witness signatures and the addition of the ballot witness’ addresses on the ballot envelope, another point Republicans have said they are looking into. A Republican source told the Washington Examiner that observers at the polls noticed that “a lot” of the ballot envelopes had been edited by clerks.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission issued guidance that said clerks are allowed to correct addresses if they can find the right information, although, given the massive increase in absentee voting, the lawsuit contends that fraud may have occurred.
“Election workers, overwhelmed by the sudden flood of mailed ballots, have less ability to carefully review them to screen out fraudulent ones, creating a substantial risk that fraudulent votes will be counted and vote-dilution disenfranchisement will occur,” the lawsuit alleges.
If the lawsuit were to be successful, it would toss out some 800,000 votes cast across the state, given that all three counties voted heavily in favor of Biden rather than Trump.
Trump’s team has indicated that it plans to file for a recount in the state, a process that, if it happens, won’t begin until late next week. Biden leads by 20,540 votes, with 49.6% of the vote, compared to 48.9% for Trump.