The Wisconsin Supreme Court is predominantly composed of liberal justices for the first time in 15 years after Justice Janet Protasiewicz was sworn in on August 1st. This is expected to have significant impact on the rulings coming out of the court, including in several pending and anticipated election law cases:
Protasiewicz, who was previously a Milwaukee County judge, ran with backing and deep financial support from Democrats, abortion rights groups and other liberals in the officially nonpartisan race. She handily defeated her conservative opponent in April, raising expectations among liberals that the new court will soon do away with the state’s abortion ban, order new electoral maps to be drawn and ensure a long line of Democratic success after 15 years of rulings that largely favored Republicans.
In response to the court’s new liberal majority, at least two election cases have already been filed.
In July, Priorities USA, the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans and a voter filed a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) challenging three separate state absentee ballot rules—the absentee ballot witness requirement, Wisconsin’s prohibition on drop boxes, and the current deadline for voters to cure absentee ballots.
The challenge to the state’s drop box prohibition is especially significant considering the Wisconsin Supreme Court only ruled against allowing drop boxes a little over a year ago in Teigen v. WEC:
The Wisconsin Supreme Court held that absentee ballot drop boxes, used widely in the 2020 election, have no statutory authorization and Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) guidance encouraging their use was unlawful. The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed the lawsuit on behalf of two Wisconsin voters in June 2021 challenging the legal status of absentee ballot drop boxes after WEC issued guidance in 2020 contrary to state law.
The majority decision, authored by Justice Rebecca Bradley, said, “Only the legislature may permit absentee voting via ballot drop boxes. WEC cannot. Ballot drop boxes appear nowhere in the detailed statutory system for absentee voting. WEC’s authorization of ballot drop boxes was unlawful…”
The second lawsuit was filed in early August and challenges state legislative maps drawn after the 2020 census:
The long-promised action is backed by Democrats and was filed by a coalition of law firms and voting rights advocacy groups. It comes the day after the Wisconsin Supreme Court flipped from a conservative to liberal majority, with the start of the term of a justice who said that the Republican maps were “rigged” and should be reviewed. . .
The lawsuit asks that all 132 state lawmakers be up for election that year in newly drawn districts. In Senate districts that are midway through a four-year term in 2024, there would be a special election with the winner serving two years. Then the regular four-year cycle would resume again in 2026.
Expect more lawsuits to be filed as we head into the 2024 election cycle. As in 2020, the radical Left will continue to weaponize the judicial system to promote policies that erode public confidence in elections while seeking to strike down policies that increase transparency and safeguard election integrity.