Conservative law firm files more lawsuits over 2020 election in Wisconsin | Local Government


A conservative Chicago law firm that has been working with the Republican-appointed special counsel probing Wisconsin’s 2020 election has filed another spate of lawsuits challenging another aspect of that election — ballot drop boxes — that has long raised the ire of Republicans, especially since their candidate for president lost.

The Thomas More Society, however, isn’t suing all the approximately 245 Wisconsin municipalities that used the absentee ballot drop boxes in November 2020, just the five largest and most Democratic-leaning: Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine.

The firm, on behalf of a total of six residents in the five municipalities, notes that state law is silent on the use of drop boxes and asks a judge to declare them “legally unauthorized” and permanently barred.

Democrats and Republicans alike largely approved of drop boxes prior to the 2020 election, and the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission approved their use in the election as a way to cut down on crowds at polling places at a time when there was no vaccine against COVID-19 and public health authorities were warning that large groups, such as at polling places, could spread the virus that’s killed more than 1 million Americans.

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A January ruling by a Waukesha County judge that barred the use of drop boxes except in a clerk’s office has been appealed, and the legality of drop boxes is now before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which is expected to rule on the matter sometime this summer.

The Elections Commission in February rescinded its guidance allowing drop boxes, in keeping with the lower court’s ruling. The nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau found the drop boxes were used in at least 43 cities, 46 villages and 156 towns throughout the state in the 2020 election.

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A spokesperson for the Thomas More Society did not respond when asked why the firm isn’t suing the other municipalities that used drop boxes. The Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine clerks’ offices also did not respond to an opportunity to comment.

Erick Kaardal, an attorney for the group, has been working with former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman on his ongoing $676,000 probe of the election. That review was paused earlier this month by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to allow time for resolution of five lawsuits related to the probe.

Much like multiple judges, outside reviews and recounts, Gableman has so far found no evidence of the kind of widespread fraud or criminal activity that could have changed the outcome of the election in Wisconsin, where Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by just fewer than 21,000 votes.

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Still, he and other conservatives continue to allege a conspiracy among Democratic-leaning nonprofits and elections officials to use more than $10 million from the Chicago-based nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life to boost turnout in Democratic areas under the guise of “safe voting” during a pandemic.

Money from the Center for Tech and Civic Life was distributed to about 214 Wisconsin municipalities, including many won by Trump, to pay for things including poll worker training and pay, new voting machines, ballot drop boxes and personal protective equipment. While the state’s five largest and most Democratic-leaning municipalities got between two and four times more money, per capita, than other municipalities, the center has said no municipality that asked for the money was denied it.

A Dane County judge earlier this month characterized as “ridiculous” Kaardal’s claims in a separate lawsuit that accepting the center’s grants to help fund elections constituted bribery. There is nothing in state law barring private funding to help administer elections.

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