State of Wisconsin

Wisconsin Racine Absentee Voting Van Challenge

Brown v. McMenamin

Complaint filed with the Wisconsin Elections Commission by a conservative group, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), on behalf of a Wisconsin voter against the city clerk of Racine challenging the use of mobile voting sites throughout the community. Under Wisconsin law, clerks can designate alternate absentee ballot sites if the clerk’s office is unavailable for in-person voting. For the state’s Aug. 9, 2022 primary, the Racine city clerk permitted the use of an “election van” that moves from place to place to allow for early in-person absentee voting. The complaint alleges that Wisconsin law requires “that a polling place will be a building and not at a vehicle” and similarly does not allow alternate sites to change locations, meaning that this moving election van was not allowed. The plaintiff argues that the clerk’s use of election vans violates Wisconsin law because the alternate sites are temporary, which violates the statute’s requirement of a fixed location and fixed period of time to vote, and the vans are parked near the addresses listed and don’t have “fixed” locations. Additionally, the plaintiff claims that the clerk’s election van was “not as near as practicable to the [clerk’s] office,” it “afforded an advantage to the Democratic Party” and the van’s use does not comply with ballot security measures because Wisconsin law requires ballots to be kept at an alternate site “from the time they are cast until they are counted”(which the plaintiffs allege cannot occur with a moving van). The plaintiff requests that the city clerk be prevented from permitting any in-person alternate absentee ballot sites, such as the election van, other than those specifically allowed under Wisconsin law. 

On Nov. 4, WEC issued a decision stating that “the Commission finds no probable cause to believe a violation of law or abuse of discretion has occurred with regard to the City of Racine’s use of alternate absentee voting sites and mobile facilities as alleged in” the complaint. This means Racine may continue to utilize in-person alternate absentee ballot sites, such as a mobile election van.

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