State of Wisconsin

Wisconsin Racine Absentee Voting Van Challenge II

Brown v. Wisconsin Elections Commission

Lawsuit filed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), a conservative group, on behalf of a Wisconsin voter against the city clerk of Racine and the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) challenging the use of mobile voting sites throughout the community. This legal action comes after WEC dismissed WILL’s administrative complaint seeking to prohibit Racine’s use of alternate absentee voting sites and mobile voting facilities. In this newly filed legal action appealing WEC’s dismissal of the administrative complaint, the plaintiff alleges that the city clerk of Racine violated Wisconsin law by allowing voters to cast absentee ballots at an “election van” that moves from place to place to allow for early in-person absentee voting during the Aug. 9, 2022 primary as well as the Nov. 8, 2022 midterm elections.

The plaintiff claims that under Wisconsin law, alternate absentee ballot sites “shall be located as near as practicable to the office of the municipal clerk or board of election commissioners,” but 21 alternate sites for the August primary and November midterm elections “were not as near as practicable to the office of the Clerk.” Additionally, the plaintiff contends that the alternate absentee voting sites “afforded an advantage to one or more political parties.” The complaint further argues that by permitting in-person absentee voting to occur at City Hall, where the Racine city clerk’s office is also located, the city clerk violated Wisconsin law. The plaintiff also claims that mobile voting sites violate provisions of Wisconsin law, which allegedly do “not permit temporary, shifting locations” and instead require “alternate site[s] [to] remain in place until the day after the election.” Finally, the plaintiff contends that Wisconsin law requires polling places to be located in buildings “and not in a transitory vehicle such as a van or bus.” The plaintiff asks the court to reverse WEC’s dismissal of the original administrative complaint and to prohibit the defendants from “engaging in the unlawful conduct” alleged in the complaint. 

On Jan. 8, 2024, the court held that while the use of mobile vans as absentee voting sites violates Wisconsin law, in-person absentee voting sites more broadly do not need to be located as close as practicable to the clerk’s office as the plaintiff argued.  The judge also concluded that Racine’s distribution of in-person absentee voting sites unlawfully afforded an advantage to the Democratic Party.

On Feb. 9. 2024, the City of Racine appealed the decision. On Feb. 16, Black Leaders Organizing for Communities along with other intervenors appealed the trial court’s decision to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, seeking to bypass the appeals court level. On April 1, the trial court denied the defendants’ and intervenors’ motions to stay the decision pending appeal.

On May 3, the Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed to review the case. On June 11, the state Supreme Court granted WEC’s motion to pause a portion of the lower court’s opinion holding that Racine’s distribution of in-person absentee voting sites unlawfully afforded an advantage to the Democratic Party.

STATUS: Litigation is ongoing. The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hold oral argument on Sept. 10, 2024.

Case Documents (Trial court)

Case Documents (Wi supreme court)

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