A federal judge Thursday continued to cast doubt on the lawsuit President Trump filed seeking to overturn Wisconsin’s election results and allow the GOP-controlled Legislature to decide who gets the state’s electoral votes.
U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig has previously described the remedies Trump has sought as “bizarre” and “odd.”
On Thursday, he noted Trump didn’t raise any objections to a string of policies put in place by the Wisconsin Elections Commission ahead of Nov. 3. Ludwig said the explanation he’s received so far is that Trump had too much going on and couldn’t pay attention to issues that were being raised in Wisconsin.
Ludwig said that struck him as “incredible.”
“I don’t think I heard a very good explanation today as to why the plaintiff didn’t raise these issues in advance of the election when the guidance was issued,” Ludwig said.
But Trump attorney William Bock countered the widespread use of drop boxes was a late development that hadn’t been anticipated. One of the core arguments of the suit is that local officials, acting on advice of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, improperly used drop boxes to collect absentee ballots. Bock argued during the nearly seven-hour hearing that the haphazard way in which the drop boxes were used meant some communities had collection boxes for utility bills or library books double as collection points for absentee ballots.
“No one could predict the magnitude at which this suggestion would be adopted across the state,” he said.
Ludwig said he hoped to issue a decision in the next day or two, noting that he expects an appeal of that ruling.
Trump has sued over the use of drop boxes, indefinitely confined voters who didn’t have to show photo IDs to cast absentee ballots and clerks filling in missing information for witnesses who signed absentee ballot envelopes.
After testimony from both sides, Ludwig asked several questions, including whether the advice the Elections Commission gave on all three was a significant enough departure from state law to warrant the federal court stepping in.
Trump attorneys have cited former U.S. Chief Justice Wiliam Rehnquist’s concurring opinion in the Supreme Court’s ruling that ended the 2000 recount in Florida in their case. Rehnquist wrote that a significant departure from state law rose to a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
If the policies aren’t a significant departure, Lugwig noted, he doesn’t have the authority to weigh in on issues that would otherwise be decided by state courts.
“I have a hard time at this point seeing how the things that the plaintiff is pointing to aren’t simply implementation questions,” Ludwig said. “They’re not a significant departure from the legislative scheme.”