League of Women Voters of Wis. v. WEC

No: 2022CV002472

Case Summary


On September 30, 2022, Law Forward – with the Fair Elections Center – filed a complaint on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin in Dane County Circuit Court, seeking both clarity and protection for absentee voters whose ballots have technical defects.

The denial of the right to vote for the omission of certain witness address components, like state names and zip codes, would violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s prohibition on denying a vote based on immaterial omission or error. And the lack of notice to voters whose ballots are threatened with rejection to a defective witness address violates the U.S. Constitution’s due process requirements.

Recent anti-democratic litigation on this issue has resulted in confusion in the weeks before an election. Our aim is to obtain certainty for voters and the municipal clerks who do the critical work of administering Wisconsin’s elections and to make sure that every eligible voter may have their voice heard in November.

Case Timeline


 

September 30, 2022

Complaint filed.

March 14, 2023

The Judge dismissed one of claims. Two other claims remain.

January 2, 2024

The Court ruled in favor of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin to clarify voting rights protections for voters whose absentee ballots have minor errors in listing their witnesses’ addresses. In a win for voters, this decision means that absentee ballots with certain technical witness address defects will not be rejected in future elections.

February 4, 2024

The Court denied the Legislature’s latest attempt to impede the fair and consistent administration of elections. Consequently, WEC will proceed with providing clear guidance to clerks in early February, ensuring that ballots aren’t unlawfully rejected.

This marks a victory for Wisconsin voters and the lawful and consistent administration of elections statewide. Wisconsin has a longstanding tradition of fair and open elections, which we aim to uphold. No voter should lose their voice, or their rights, due to a minor technicality. It’s disheartening that the Legislature opposed this common-sense measure, expending taxpayer resources to invalidate legitimately cast ballots.

February 8, 2024

The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, Law Forward, Fair Elections Center and Stafford Rosenbaum LLP issued the following statement after the Wisconsin Court of Appeals rejected the Wisconsin state legislature’s motion to block legal protections for absentee voters secured in the ongoing lawsuit League of Women Voters of Wisconsin vs. Wisconsin Elections Commission:
“For the second time in a week, Wisconsin courts have rejected the Wisconsin State legislature’s bid to block relief for absentee voters won by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin’s lawsuit. On January 30, the League, represented by Law Forward, Fair Elections Center, and Stafford Rosenbaum LLP, secured an order from the Dane County Circuit Court that protects four categories of absentee ballots with purported defects in the address recorded by the voter’s witness. That ruling relied on the 1964 Civil Rights Act which prohibits denying the right to vote for technical errors or omissions that are not material to determining a voter’s eligibility.
“Today’s ruling from the Wisconsin Court of Appeals protects absentee voters in time for the spring primary election on February 20. It is high time for the legislature to change course and work to protect Wisconsin’s voters’ rights.”

Case Category:
Voting Rights & Access

Jurisdiction:
Dane County Circuit Court

Case Stage:
Win