A judge on Friday rejected a request from the state GOP for an injunction barring Milwaukee officials from participating in a privately funded get-out-the-vote effort.

The Republican Party of Wisconsin had alleged Mayor Cavalier Johnson and other city officials impermissibly engaged in political activities by supporting Milwaukee Votes 2022.

But Milwaukee County Judge Gwendolyn Connolly found the suit “entirely devoid of any allegations that the defendants engaged in conduct that resulted in the support of any particular candidate or party.”

The state GOP filed the suit after Johnson said the city would include a widget on its website promoting the privately funded effort and planned to support it. Milwaukee officials later clarified the city wasn’t using public resources to assist the canvass, but the GOP sued after obtaining records that included text messages between city staff and the mayor’s political consultant about messaging responses to media questions.

Republicans sought to liken the effort to the private grants that flowed to some 200 Wisconsin cities in 2020 from a group funded largely by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The bulk of that money went to the state’s largest five cities, including Milwaukee.

In her decision, Connolly noted multiple courts had rejected challenges to those grants. 

She also rejected the charge that the city’s partnership with the privately funded GOTV effort compromised the integrity of the 2022 election. Connolly wrote it would be an abuse of discretion to grant the injunction and found Johnson“has a constitutional right to promote his constituents’ ability and right to vote in the November election.”

State GOP spokesman Chad Doran said the party continues to strongly object to the city “coordinating” with third-party groups.

“Government’s role is and has always been about providing opportunities to vote, not encouraging supporters of one party to vote. We will continue to pursue the case,” Doran said.

Read the ruling.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email