Wisconsin Judge Rules Use Of Mobile Vans In Absentee Voting Violates State Election Law

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, Jan 13, 2024 - 12:40 AM

Authored by Katabella Roberts via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A Wisconsin judge ruled this week that the use of a mobile van to facilitate absentee voting violates state election laws, marking a win for Republicans who had challenged the city of Racine after the vehicle drove to various locations throughout the city and collected absentee ballots in 2022.

Ballots as seen as workers count mail-in and in-person absentee ballots at the Wisconsin Center on in Milwaukee, Wis., on Nov. 8, 2022. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Racine County Circuit Court Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz said in his ruling that the city’s use of a mobile van for absentee voting not only violated state law but also unfairly benefited Democrats in a primary election in August 2022.

In his 17-page ruling, the judge noted that while no statute of state law expressly prohibits the use of mobile voting vans, it also does not explicitly authorize their use.

“The absence of an express prohibition, however, does not mean mobile absentee ballot sites comport to procedures specified in the election laws,” the judge wrote.

“Nothing in the statutory language detailing the procedures by which absentee ballots may be cast mentions mobile van absentee ballot sites or anything like them. Such an interpretation was and is contrary to law.”

The judge further noted that state law “clearly and unequivocally indicates that chosen alternate absentee balloting sites ‘cannot afford an advantage to any political party’” but that the filings in the case “clearly indicated that the alternate sites chosen clearly favored members of the Democratic Party or those with known Democratic Party leanings.”

Van Granted ‘Advantage’ to Democrats

Judge Gasiorkiewicz’s ruling centered on a lawsuit bought by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), a nonprofit conservative law firm based in Milwaukee, on behalf of Racine County Republican Party Chairman Ken Brown, following the 2022 primary.

The lawsuit listed Racine City Clerk Tara McMenamin and the Wisconsin Elections Commission as defendants.

In their lawsuit, plaintiffs argued that using the “election van” as an alternate absentee ballot site violated state law and that the locations the van visited afforded an advantage to citizens who are members of the Democratic Party or have a history of voting Democratic.

The van was purchased with grant money the city of Racine received from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, the nonprofit funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, according to The Associated Press.

It was sent to nearly two dozen sites in the two weeks before the primary, where it would stop by for several hours of in-person absentee voting before moving to another site over the course of two weeks.

However, plaintiffs argued the van was only sent to Democratic areas in the city and claimed it increased the chances of voter fraud.

They further claimed that the locations the van visited were not as close as possible to the City Clerk’s office and violated the “shall be located as near as practicable to the office of the municipal clerk or board of election,” clause of state law.

People cast their ballots on the first day of in-person early voting for the Nov. 3, 2020, elections in Milwaukee, Wis., on Oct. 20, 2020. (Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images)

Ruling Bolsters Election Security

Additionally, the plaintiffs claimed city officials had further violated state law by allowing absentee voting in the same physical building (City Hall) where the Office of the City Clerk is located and failed to have alternate site designations in effect for the requisite mandatory statutory time period.

The judge, however, rejected claims that in-person absentee ballot sites should be located as near as possible to the office of the municipal clerk or board of election commissioners, noting that the term “as near as practicable” encompasses “consideration beyond a pure geographic standard.”

“In fact, treating this legal term of art as purely distance-based would be an ‘erroneous concept of law,’” the judge wrote.

The Democratic National Committee, Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, and Black Leaders Organizing for Communities had all joined in seeking to rebuke the claims in the lawsuit and defend the legality of the van, arguing there was no cause shown to believe the law had been broken and no specific prohibition against using it.

In a statement following the ruling, WILL deputy counsel, Lucas Vebber, said the ruling ensures government actors are held accountable to the rule of law at all levels.

“Wisconsin voters should know that their elections are secure, and that election administration does not favor one political party over another. This decision does just that,” he said.

WILL research director, Will Flanders, added, “Every citizen should have an equal opportunity to participate in the electoral process. We are grateful the Court recognized that the City of Racine broke the law. WILL is proud to provide sound research and to help ensure fair elections for all.”

The Epoch Times has contacted the Wisconsin Elections