U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear last active lawsuit to overturn Wisconsin’s presidential election

The U.S. Supreme Court.

MADISON – The U.S. Supreme Court quietly put an end to the 2020 election on Monday — four months after polls closed — by declining to hear a lawsuit brought by former President Donald Trump to throw out thousands of ballots and let the Legislature pick the winner of the state’s 10 electoral votes. 

It was the last active legal challenge from Trump or his supporters to change the outcome of Wisconsin’s election.

“This is the inevitable end to the ignominious litigation assault on Wisconsin’s November 2020 election,” Jeff Mandell, an attorney representing Gov. Tony Evers in one of the lawsuits, said Monday. “It was clear from the outset that these efforts to overturn the will of the voters never had any merit.”

A spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin deferred comment to the Trump campaign, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul credited attorneys at the state Department of Justice who “successfully protected Wisconsinites’ votes.”

Evers and state election officials still face a class-action lawsuit seeking billions in damages filed in Colorado against social media companies, a voting machine company and officials in swing states.

The legal challenge turned away by justices on Monday was first filed in federal court in the weeks following the Nov. 3 election when Trump and his allies were bombarding state and federal judges across the country with lawsuits seeking to change the outcome of the presidential contest. 

Trump and his backers have faced similar setbacks in dozens of cases around the country, including seven in Wisconsin, with courts finding no evidence of widespread fraud or improprieties. Two recounts ordered by Trump also revealed no widespread problems. 

The Trump campaign in its lawsuit asked the Supreme Court to decide whether absentee ballots cast in the November election should be disqualified, arguing state and local election officials implemented “unauthorized absentee voting practices in disregard of the Wisconsin Legislature’s explicit command that absentee voting must be ‘carefully regulated.’ “

It also asked the court to declare Wisconsin’s election unconstitutional and void and allow the Republican-controlled Legislature to appoint electors. 

The lawsuit was filed against five of six members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, Evers, mayors and election officials in five liberal-leaning cities, and Secretary of State Doug La Follette, even though he does not oversee elections.

In the lawsuit, Trump argued that some of the state’s long-standing election practices are improper. He contended the system the state uses for in-person early voting — in place for more than a decade — is illegal because voters are required to fill out one form instead of two. 

He also argued clerks should not have set up absentee ballot drop boxes and should not have filled in the addresses of witnesses on absentee ballot envelopes. The policy for witness addresses was put forward by Republicans on the state Elections Commission four years ago.

U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig — a Trump appointee — threw out the lawsuit, concluding Wisconsin officials had followed state laws when they conducted the Nov. 3 election.

Ludwig described the case as “extraordinary.”

“A sitting president who did not prevail in his bid for reelection has asked for federal court help in setting aside the popular vote based on disputed issues of election administration, issues he plainly could have raised before the vote occurred,” he wrote. 

Ludwig told Trump’s legal team that giving the power of deciding electors to lawmakers would result in “probably the most remarkable ruling in the history of this court or the federal judiciary.”

He wrote that the state Legislature had given the Wisconsin Elections Commission the ability to advise clerks on how to set up their election procedures. Siding with Trump would allow every losing candidate to run to court after each election, Ludwig wrote.

Contact Molly Beck at molly.beck@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MollyBeck.