The scene outside of the Riverside High School polling location on Milwaukee's east side on April 7, 2020. Photo by Adam Kelnhofer.

Alleging inaction by lawmakers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic disenfranchised “thousands” of electors, a group of 14 Milwaukee-area residents is asking a federal court for a revote.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Madison ahead of today’s 4 p.m. embargo on election results, is the first formal legal challenge to the April 7 election.

It calls on the court to order either a “complete revote… after public health officials have determined that COVID-19 has sufficiently dissipated” or a “partial” mail-in revote allowing those who did not cast ballots on April 7 to participate.

“Due to the dangers to voters from the COVID-19 outbreak, the Legislature’s failure to postpone the April 7 election disenfranchised thousands of state electors who could not vote because of health concerns or issues with absentee balloting,” the suit argues.

Gov. Tony Evers on a DHS press call said while he didn’t “know for a fact” voters had been disenfranchised, he suspected “many people weighed the difference between being unsafe and exposing themselves to an unhealthy environment or voting.”

“Some of them, I’m guessing, did decide not to vote, and if that’s the definition of disenfranchised, well then I guess it is,” he said.

The suit names as defendants the State of Wisconsin, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, both houses of the Legislature, the Wisconsin Elections Commission, all six WEC commissioners and WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe.

The suit apportions blame largely to lawmakers, saying election officials are only included because they “would be called upon to implement the remedies requested.” What’s more, the suit alleges Vos, Fitzgerald and other lawmakers “cavalierly (and for clearly political reasons) refused to take action to postpone the election.”

Spokesmen for Vos, R-Rochester, and Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, were not immediately available for comment.

The lawsuit comes as Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Ben Wikler says “every legal option is on the table.”

Wikler, alongside Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, today in a webinar told reporters Republicans “created a huge legal cloud” over the election after lawmakers refused to expand mail-in ballot options and the conservative-controlled Supreme Court overturned Evers’ executive order to postpone in-person voting until June.

“The clear imperative is to both make sure that justice is done related to last Tuesday and to make sure that we never go through this nightmare scenario again,” Wikler said.

Wikler added he fully expected at least some of the 3,381 candidates on the ballot or voters who participated in the election to file their own suits.

See the filing here.

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