Trump Campaign Suit Challenges Wisconsin Election Results, Partisanship Grips Elections Commission

The suit asks the state Supreme Court to throw out Gov. Tony Evers' certification of the results while the campaign continues to appeal.

By Will Kenneally

December 1, 2020

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Donald Trump

President Donald Trump visits Fincantieri Marinette Marine June 25, 2020.

The Trump campaign is filing a suit challenging the election results before the state Supreme Court, alleging impropriety with how absentee ballots were issued and collected.

The suit issued similar challenges that the Trump campaign made during the recount of Dane and Milwaukee counties: in-person absentee (early voting) ballots required written applications that may not have been obtained, clerks could not fill in missing information on absentee envelopes, and the indefinitely confined status for voters was used improperly.

“The Milwaukee County and Dane County Boards of Canvassers improperly included those ballots in their Recount totals,” the suit alleges.

“The Milwaukee County and Dane County Boards of Canvassers’ decisions are in direct conflict with applicable Wisconsin Statutes and case law and implicate an urgent matter of state-wide and national importance.”

The results from the presidential election were formalized Monday, when the Wisconsin Elections Commission chair Ann Jacobs signed off on the results from county canvasses and the Dane and Milwaukee county recounts.

Gov. Tony Evers certified the state’s electoral college delegation a few hours later.

“The matter has been made even more urgent by Governor Evers’ illegal attempt to certify the election and name Wisconsin’s electors,” according to the suit.

The suit asked the court to throw out the governor’s certification while the campaign continues its appeal of the results. Under state law, campaigns party to a recount can challenge the recount’s results in state court within five business days of the elections commission chair approving the results.

Elections Commission Meets to Certify State Results

The state elections commission met Tuesday to certify the remaining races on the November ballot, including congressional and state races.

This came after Jacobs, a Democratic appointee to the commission, approved the presidential results a day ahead of the state’s Tuesday deadline, which drew ire from her Republican colleagues on the commission.

“I cannot express strongly enough my disappointment in your actions yesterday,” said Republican appointee Dean Knudson. “The law is very clear and you have violated the law as our chair. As a consequence, I believe that I’ve lost all confidence in you as the chair.”

He argued it was the purview of the bipartisan commission, rather than the chair, to sign off on the presidential election results.

Commissioners rotate as chair every two years, alternating between Republican and Democratic appointees.

Knudson called on the commission to suspend all business until commissioners debated replacing Jacobs as the chair—a motion which failed 3-3 along a party-line vote. He also called on Jacobs to voluntarily resign.

“I’m not withdrawing as chair,” Jacobs said. “What I did was not illegal, you are misinformed about what took place and absolutely incorrect.”

“That’s what happened in every other election, including the I believe seven or eight that were certified under your auspices,” she told Knudson. “We will proceed as we have in every other election.”

Officials React to Lawsuit

Among the legal arguments, the suit is targeting early votes from specifically Dane and Milwaukee counties for not having written applications coinciding with the ballots. Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, said this selectively disenfranchises areas of the state.

“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, speaking of the Democratic stronghold counties targeted.

“The Wisconsin Department of Justice will continue protecting the will of Wisconsin voters.”

Evers also reacted to the lawsuit during a media briefing Tuesday saying the process was handled the same way as during the 2016 election, which did not receive the same questions of impropriety.

“We had a great turnout. It was fair and very, very accurate,” Evers said. “I personally carried out my duty to certify that election and following the law.”

The Supreme Court ordered the respondents, which include the governor as well as the Dane and Milwaukee county clerks, to respond to the suit by 8:30 Tuesday night.

This story will be updated.

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