Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wisconsin Supreme Court
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In this case concerning two documents created by employees of the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) that authorized municipal clerks and local election officials to establish ballot drop boxes the Supreme Court held that the documents were invalid because ballot drop boxes are illegal under Wisconsin statutes.Two Wisconsin voters brought this action challenging the validity of the documents, arguing, among other things, that, under Wisconsin statutes, drop boxes are illegal. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) an absentee ballot must be returned by mail or the voter must personally deliver it to the municipal clerk at the clerk's officer or a designated alternate site, not an inanimate object; and (2) therefore, the documents were invalid. View "Teigen v. Wisconsin Elections Commission" on Justia Law

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In this original action filed by Petitioners to remedy malapportionment in Wisconsin's state legislative and congressional districts the Supreme Court held that the maps proposed by the Wisconsin Legislature were race neutral.On March 3, 2022, the Supreme Court selected legislative and congressional maps drawn by Governor Tony Evers. On certiorari review, the United States Supreme Court summarily reversed, concluding that racial motivations drove the Governor's selection of district lines. On remand, the Supreme Court held (1) the maps proposed by the Governor, Senator Janet Bewley, Black Leaders Organizing for Communities, and Citizen Mathematicians and Scientists were racially motivated and failed strict scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause; and (2) this Court adopts the state senate and assembly maps proposed by the State Legislature. View "Johnson v. Wisconsin Elections Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals, which summarily affirmed the decision of the circuit court affirming the results of a referendum recount conducted pursuant to Wis. Stat. 9.01, holding that Wis. Stat. 7.54 does not apply when an appeal of the result of a recount by the board of canvassers is before an appellate court.On review, Petitioners - James Sewell and George Myers - argued that the Racine Unified School District Board of Canvassers mistakenly calculated the recount's vote totals and that Sewell had an absolute right under section 7.54 to have the ballots opened and reviewed in circuit court. The circuit court affirmed the Board of Canvassers' recount, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that while section 7.54 appears to provide an occasion to utilize its provisions in regard to a contested election, it did not apply in this case. View "Sewell v. Racine Unified School District Board of Canvassers" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court remedied a malapportionment in existing maps reflecting the legislative districts across the state, while ensuring the maps satisfy all other constitutional and statutory requirements, but held that claims of political unfairness in the maps present political questions, not legal ones.In 2021, the Wisconsin legislature drew maps reflecting the legislative districts across the state, and the governor vetoed them. The parties agreed that the existing maps had become unconstitutional since they were enacted into law in 2011. Petitioners filed a petition for leave to commence an original action in the Supreme Court asking it to declare the existing maps in violation of Wis. Const. art. IV, 3 and requesting a mandatory injunction remedying the unconstitutional plans. The Supreme Court held (1) this Court will remedy the fact that the maps no longer comply with the constitutional requirement of an equal number of citizens in each legislative district, due to shifts in population across the state; but (2) claims of political fairness in the maps present political questions that must be resolved through the political process and not by the judiciary. View "Johnson v. Wisconsin Elections Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court's writ of mandamus and contempt orders in this case, holding that Wis. Stat. 6.50(3) does not place a positive and plain duty on the Wisconsin Elections Commission to change the registration status of eligible voters when receiving reliable information that the elector moved out of their municipality.Petitioners sought a writ of mandamus against the Commission and its commissioners to carry out the instructions set forth in section 6.50(3) and change the registration of electors who may have moved. The circuit court granted the writ and later found several commissioners in contempt after the Commission failed to comply. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the writ was erroneously granted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court erred by issuing a writ of mandamus ordering the Commission to carry out the requirements of section 6.50(e) because the Commission has no statutory duty, and therefore, no plain and positive duty, to carry out the requirements of the statute. View "Zignego v. Wisconsin Elections Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court rejected Donald Trump's effort to invalidate more than 220,000 votes from Dane and Milwaukee Counties in the 2020 presidential election, holding that the challenge to indefinitely confined voter ballots was without merit and that laches barred relief on the remaining three categories of challenged ballots.Petitioners brought this action seeking to invalidated a sufficient number of Wisconsin ballots to change Wisconsin's certified election results, focusing its objections on four different categories of ballots applying only to voters in Dane and Milwaukee County. Among those challenged ballots were ballots cast by voters who claimed indefinitely confined status since March 25, 2020. The Supreme Court concluded that the Petitioners were not entitled to the requested relief, holding (1) the challenge to the indefinitely confined voter ballots was meritless on its face; and (2) the other three categories of challenged ballots failed under the doctrine of laches. View "Trump v. Biden" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Governor Evers' Emergency Order #12 did not render all Wisconsin electors "indefinitely confined," thereby obviating the requirement of a valid photo identification to obtain an absentee ballot.Petitioners, Mark Jefferson and the Republican Part of Wisconsin, filed a petition for original action seeking a declaration that Respondents lacked the authority to issue an interpretation of Wisconsin's election law allowing all electors in Dane County to obtain an absentee ballot without photo identification and that the Emergency Order did not authorize all Wisconsin voters to obtain an absentee ballot without a photo identification. The Supreme Court answered (1) Wis. Stat. 6.86(2)(a) requires that each individual elector make his or her own determination as to whether the elector is indefinitely confined, and an elector is indefinitely confined for purposes of section 6.86(2)(a) for only the enumerated reasons therein; and (2) Respondents' interpretation of Wisconsin election laws was erroneous. View "Jefferson v. Dane County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered a question certified to it by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals by holding that Wis. Stat. 803.09(2m) grants the Wisconsin Legislature the authority to represent the State's interest in the validity of state laws.The question here arose in the context of litigation in federal court over election-related laws. The Wisconsin Legislature was denied standing to appeal an adverse ruling below. The Seventh Circuit subsequently requested that the Supreme Court decide whether, under section 803.09(2m), the Wisconsin Legislature has the authority to represent the State's interest in the validity of state laws. The Supreme Court answered the question in the affirmative, holding that the Legislature does have that authority. View "Democratic National Committee v. Bostelmann" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Petitioners' petition for leave to commence an original action and motion for temporary injunctive relief in this election matter, holding that it was too late to grant Petitioners any form of relief that would be feasible and that would not cause confusion and undue damage to the Wisconsin electors and the other candidates in the various races on the general election ballot.Petitioners were the Green Party's candidates for President and Vice President of the United States. Because the Commission failed to certify at least 2000 valid signatures Petitioners filed a petition for leave to commence an original action and a motion for temporary injunctive relief asking that the Supreme Court order that their names be placed on Wisconsin's 2020 fall general election ballot. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding (1) Petitioners delayed seeking relief in a situation where hundreds, if not thousands, of absentee ballots have already been mailed to electors; and (2) therefore, this Court declines to exercise its original jurisdiction due to the lack of sufficient time to complete its review and award any effective relief without completely upsetting the election. View "Hawkins v. Wisconsin Elections Commission" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the public interest that elections remain free from voter intimidation and coercion in this certification election was sufficient to outweigh the public interest in favor of openness of public records.The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court that granted summary judgment to Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI) on its claim that the public records law was violated by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC). WERC denied MTI’s requests, made at various times during the 2015 certification elections, for names of Madison Metropolitan School District employees who had voted as of those dates based on the WERC chairman’s determination that the public interest that elections remain free from voter intimidation and coercion outweighed the public interest. In reversing the circuit court, the Supreme Court held that the chairman lawfully performed the balancing test in concluding that the public interest in elections free from voter intimidation and coercion outweighed the public interest in favor of openness of public records. View "Madison Teachers, Inc. v. Scott" on Justia Law