webnexttech | Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Mobile Absentee Voting Sites
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The Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a split decision on Tuesday upholding a lower court’s ban on the use of mobile voting sites in the upcoming presidential election but allowing the designation of alternate absentee ballot sites in line with policy in place since 2016. In granting the stay, the high court is allowing municipalities across the battleground state to use the same method in place since 2016 to determine where to locate early voting sites for the upcoming August primary and November presidential election. Wisconsin state law prohibits locating any early voting site in a place that gives an advantage to any political party and, in addition to ruling that the use of mobile vans violated this law, the circuit court found that an advantage to a political party could only be avoided if voters in the immediate vicinity of the absentee voting location cast their ballots exactly the same as voters who live near the municipal clerk’s office. The high court’s liberal majority wrote in the order that the lower court’s view on alternate absentee ballot sites could have “dramatic” effects across the state and found that public interest weighs “heavily” in favor of staying the lower court’s ruling in this regard. The majority opinion indicated that there was little harm in granting a stay that would keep the same criteria in place for determining early voting locations. The criteria has been used since 2016, when the one-location rule was struck down. “In its ongoing effort to resolve cases in a manner benefitting its preferred political party, the majority enters a bewildering order heretofore unheard of in the legal realm,” Justice Bradley wrote in dissent. “While the majority (correctly) denies the motion to stay the circuit court’s order, the majority ’stays’ a portion of the circuit court’s legal analysis. This is not a ’thing’ under the law.” Justice Bradley further suggested that the entire circuit court decision remains in force and that, beyond ruling to uphold the ban on mobile voting units, “the rest of the majority’s order has no practical effect.” Joining Justice Bradley in dissent was Justice Brian Hagedorn, who expressed confusion as to whether the alternate absentee ballot site designation rules remain in effect per the circuit court’s ruling. “We stay orders, so I don’t know what it means to stay one interpretation of one portion of the legal analysis underlying an order we unanimously allow to remain in effect,” he wrote. Justice Hagedorn added that, at the end of the day, the only thing that appears certain at this stage is that the use of mobile voting units is unlawful, with the remaining issues to be resolved as part of pending underlying litigation. Requests for comment on the ruling sent to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and to the Republican Party of Wisconsin were not immediately returned. The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) brought the lawsuit on behalf of Racine County Republican Party Chairman Ken Brown after the state elections commission said use of the van in Racine did not break the law. WILL did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling. The underlying case remains pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, after the elections commission asked the high court to put the circuit court ruling on hold in light of a looming deadline for selecting early voting sites. The Wisconsin Supreme Court is expected to schedule oral arguments in the underlying case in the fall, which will be too late to affect absentee voting rules for this year’s elections.

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