A federal judge late today dismissed a suit Green Bay filed seeking changes to the April 7 election due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ruling he lacked jurisdiction.

U.S. Judge William C. Griesbach noted cities are barred from suing their parent states.

Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich said the city knew “this was an uphill battle, but we felt it was important to do everything possible to protect the health and well-being of our citizens, poll workers, and employees.”

Genrich, a former Dem state lawmaker, was also included in the suit in his individual capacity. But Griesbach ruled allegations that the mayor may have trouble voting absentee to be too speculative and lack plausibility because of his position.

Griesbach also ruled a claim by one individual was not “enough to create the standing
Plaintiffs need to invoke federal intervention in state laws governing elections.”

“The court’s decision is not intended to minimize the serious difficulties the City and its officials are facing in attempting to conduct the upcoming election,” Griesbach wrote. “The court is saying only that the City and its mayor are not the proper parties to bring such a claim in federal court.”

The suit is one of four that have been filed in federal court seeking changes to the April 7 election. Griesbach noted a group of citizens raising similar issues filed one of them in the Western District of Wisconsin. If the judge in that case finds they have standing, Griesbach wrote, that court will address the questions raised in the Green Bay suit.

The Green Bay suit sought to cancel in-person voting for the April 7 election and instead allow clerks to mail ballots to all registered voters, as a way to fight coronavirus. The city also sought to give local clerks until June 2 to count all returned ballots.

“Wisconsinites should not be forced to choose between their health and their right to vote, but that’s where things stand as long as we continue to move forward with an in-person election on April 7,” Genrich said.

Washington County was one of several parties that sought to intervene in the suit. The conuty raised concerns that delaying the election would mean leaving local offices open around the state. Many have terms that end shortly after the April 7 election.

“This dismissal is clear: local officials should spend their time implementing our elections,” said Washington County Board Chair Don Kriefall. “I’m proud of the many local clerks statewide who are doing just that.”

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