Washington High School in Milwaukee's Sherman Park neighborhood on the city's north side saw light, steady turnout, but no lines by mid-afternoon, according to poll workers. Photo by David Wise, Nov. 3, 2020.

A Racine County reserve judge today rejected Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn Wisconsin’s election results, affirming Joe Biden won Wisconsin’s presidential election.

“The bottom line here is that the court should do everything to ensure that the will of the voters prevail,” Judge Stephen Simanek said from the bench this morning.

Simanek found the Trump campaign failed to prove officials erroneously interpreted Wisconsin’s election laws and further said there’s no evidence of misconduct or widespread fraud.

In a statement, Trump campaign attorney Jim Troupis indicated the campaign will appeal ahead of the Electoral College convening on Monday. Troupis indicated the campaign will file a notice of appeal in state appellate court while simultaneously filing a motion requesting the state Supreme Court takes the case directly.

“We appreciate that the judge again today recognized the importance and timeliness of making an immediate decision for the purposes of appeal,” he said in the statement. “We look forward to presenting our case directly to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the near future.”

It is the fifth adverse ruling to Trump or one of his supporters in their efforts to overturn Biden’s victory in Wisconsin. Biden won by more than 20,000 votes.

The suit sought to throw out ballots in Dane and Milwaukee counties — the state’s most populous and heavily Democratic — on four grounds:

*170,140 ballots that were cast early, in-person. State law requires a written request for an absentee ballot, and voters in both counties sign an envelope that doubles as a ballot request. The lawsuit alleged that is insufficient to meet the state’s requirement.

*5,517 ballots that saw clerks fill in missing information on the absentee ballot envelope. The suit alleged the Wisconsin Election Commission erroneously advised clerks that they could fill in information such as a witness’ ZIP code. The advice has been in place since October 2016, but the suit argued absentee ballots with missing information must be returned to voters to complete.

*28,395 ballots cast by those who claimed indefinitely confined status after March 25, when Dane and Milwaukee county clerks suggested on social media that voters could check that status in light of Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Voters who claim that status don’t have to submit a copy of their photo ID to vote absentee. The suit alleged local clerks didn’t do their due diligence to remove voters who fraudulently claimed the status and those who no longer met the standard to qualify had an obligation to inform their clerks.

*17,271 ballots collected by poll workers for the Madison Clerk’s office at so-called Democracy in the Park events before Election Day. The city stationed poll workers at city parks to collect ballots to give voters an avenue to return them without putting them in the mail. The suit alleged the sites weren’t legally established as absentee ballot collection points. Asked about the events at the time, WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe told reporters they did not appear to violate the law.

Altogether, the suit challenged 221,323 ballots after Joe Biden won Wisconsin by 20,682 votes, according to the canvass the Elections Commission chair signed off on last week.

In oral arguments today, Troupis maintained local clerks were wrong to rely on absentee ballot guidance from the state Elections Commission because aspects of it ran counter to state law. 

Biden attorney John Devaney fired back Wisconsin voters cast absentee ballots “in full compliance with the laws that were in effect at the time of the election.” The Trump campaign’s proposed remedy, Devaney said, equated to “one of the ultimate violations of both procedural and substantive due process.”

In making his ruling, Simanek sided with the defendants in finding “the rules and guidelines applied in each of the disputed areas are reasonable and a correct interpretation of the underlying early absentee voting laws.”

“The determination of the court is that the petitioner appellants here have not demonstrated that an erroneous interpretation of Wisconsin early voting laws happened here,” he said.

Simanek also added, “there is no credible evidence of any misconduct or wide-scale fraud.”

The Trump campaign initially filed its legal challenge directly to the state Supreme Court but the court last week rejected the suit 4-3 with conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn joining the court’s three liberals in making up the majority. Hagedorn wrote that state law requires campaigns to first go to circuit court in challenging the results of a recount.

The Trump campaign quickly refiled its appeal in circuit courts in Dane and Milwaukee counties before Chief Justice Pat Roggensack consolidated those suits and appointed Simanek, a Racine County reserve judge, to hear the case.

Roggensack earlier raised questions about the remedy Trump sought in a dissent of the decision for the high court to reject taking the case directly.

She noted the Elections Commission has been advising clerks for some time they may fill in missing information on absentee ballot envelopes, and the court owes it to the public to declare if that advice is correct

“However, doing so does not necessarily lead to striking absentee ballots that were cast by following incorrect WEC advice,” Roggensack wrote. “The remedy Petitioners seek may be out of reach for a number of reasons.”

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