The Wisconsin Supreme Court placed a suspension on local officials mailing absentee ballots Thursday while the court considers a Green Party presidential candidate’s lawsuit to get on the state’s Nov. 3 election ballot.
The Supreme Court’s ruling came down to a 4-3 vote along party lines with the conservative majority prevailing and the liberals dissenting, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
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The decision comes as the deadline for local clerks to mail out absentee ballots looms a week away on Sept. 17 — raising questions in municipalities across the state who began sending out absentee ballots in anticipation for an overload of requests, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
The court made the order in response to a lawsuit from Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins attempting to get on the presidential ballot. After being rejected by the Wisconsin Elections Commission, Hawkins took his case to the Supreme Court in hopes of making it on the ballot this November, according to the WSJ.
In a separate lawsuit, Kanye West is appealing to get on the ballot after his original bid was denied due to his campaign missing the deadline to turn in nominating signatures, according to the WSJ.
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University of Wisconsin professor and Election Research Center affiliate David Canon said in a statement to The Badger Herald that the suspension could be a “disaster” for local election clerks.
“The Madison clerk’s office was ready to process the nearly 100,000 requests on file over the next few days, and that is all on hold now,” Canon said.
Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said to the WSJ that the county had over 150,000 absentee ballot requests on record as of Tuesday.
Additionally, McDonell said the process to change the ballot at this point would require a completely redesigned ballot, new information loaded onto voting machine thumb drives, and 500,000 new ballots printed, according to the WSJ.
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If the State Supreme Court decides Hawkins should be added to the November ballots, Canon said clerks would “clearly” miss the federal deadline of Sept. 19 to mail out the ballots on file to overseas and military voters. Canon said hundreds of thousands of other ballots would be delayed.
“[Dane County is] in the same boat as the rest of the state — anyone who has requested an absentee ballot will be delayed in receiving it,” Canon said.
Director of the Elections Research Center Barry Burden said in a statement to The Herald that from a strategic perspective, conservatives could benefit from having Hawkins on the ballot.
Burden said both the WEC and the Supreme Court voted directly along party lines when deciding how treat Hawkins’ case.
“There’s a widespread belief that Green Party candidate Jill Stein cost the Democrats critical votes in 2016 and that another Green candidate could have a similar effect in 2020,” Burden said.
UPDATE: This article was updated Sept. 11 at 10:05 a.m. with a statement from Barry Burden, ERC director.