Lawsuit Seeks To Have Mail-In Ballot Requests Sent To All Wisconsin Voters

May 18, 2020

Voters and advocacy groups are suing Wisconsin’s top election officials, charging they failed to take needed action to allow safe and accessible voting during the state’s April 7 election. The suit seeks to ensure the same problems don't occur when voters go to the polls in November.

The plaintiffs want mail-in ballot request forms sent to all voters, more polling places, and a comprehensive voter education campaign, among other changes.

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The lawsuit argues that Wisconsin, seen as a key state in the upcoming presidential election, needs to guarantee fall elections won't violate the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. It contends Wisconsin's April 7 primary election fell far short on all counts. 

Attorney Jonathan Manes, with the MacArthur Justice Center that’s co-representing the plaintiff, says that's why they're bringing the lawsuit.

“People shouldn't have to be forced to choose between risking their health by going to the polls or not voting at all, or relying on an absentee voting system that often didn't work for people," says Manes. "Too many people tried to vote that way but couldn't.”

The plaintiffs include three registered voters. One voter says long lines at polling places resulted in voter intimidation. Another says she couldn’t have a witness sign her mail-in ballot because she lives alone and has chronic lung disease. Another says she properly requested her mail-in ballot but didn’t receive it on time. 

Disability Rights Wisconsin and BLOC, Black Leaders Organizing for Communities, are also plaintiffs. They argue that election officials impeded them from educating and mobilizing voters.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission refrained from comment, saying it doesn’t comment on pending lawsuits. However, according to an absentee voting report issued Monday, the commission has analyzed the election, including the use of absentee ballots, and already is taking steps to prepare for the fall.

Commission staff members are also exploring the possibility of sending an absentee ballot request to every registered voter.