Third election lawsuit against WEC filed by voting rights groups and quarantined voters

    A sign guides voters on Election Day at 514 Studios on November 6, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 06: A sign guides voters on Election Day at 514 Studios on November 6, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

    A third lawsuit against the Wisconsin Elections Commission was filed Thursday in federal court by voting rights groups and four registered voters over the age of 60, who are self-quarantining alone. 

    The lawsuit requests that absentee ballots returned without the required witness signature be accepted as state leaders encourage mail-in voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. Requiring witness signatures, the suit argues, would prevent those who are self-isolating and living alone from voting. 

    “This requirement poses a significant barrier to absentee, mail-in voting for any self-quarantining eligible voter who lives alone or who does not have an adult U.S. citizen in their household,” the complaint states. “Indeed, for these voters, it will be simply impossible to satisfy the witness signature requirement to cast an absentee, mail-in ballot, and that voter will be denied their right to vote — caught in an unconstitutionally burdensome and unnecessary choice between their life and their liberty.”

    The suit states all four older voters have received, requested or plan on requesting absentee ballots — of which nearly 700,000 have been requested statewide — but have no way of obtaining the required witness signature. 

    “Because they all live alone and are all self-quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic, given their advanced age and medical histories, the [Centers for Disease Control’s]’s recommendations, and now Governor Evers’s Emergency Order #12, Plaintiffs have no way to safely obtain a witness signature on their mail-in absentee ballots certifications,” the suit states. 

    The plaintiffs include an 83-year-old retired teacher who is at risk because she’s a cancer survivor; a 73-year-old retired psychologist who has suffered from severe hay fever; a 72-year-old realtor with a history of hypertension and a 64-year-old retiree with asthma. 

    The voting rights groups signed on to the suit are the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans and the Fair Elections Center. 

    This is the third lawsuit filed against the WEC in recent weeks as the commission and other state officials continue to say the April 7 election will move forward as scheduled. 

    Last week, the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Party of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit asking for registration deadlines to be extended. That suit resulted in the online voter registration deadline being moved from March 18 to March 30.

    On Tuesday, the City of Green Bay filed a lawsuit requesting the election be delayed until June 2 and moved to an entirely mail-in system. 

    Thursday afternoon, the Wisconsin Elections Commission held a special teleconference meeting in which it went into a closed session to discuss its strategy for the pending lawsuits.

    Henry Redman
    Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.