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Statement from Plaintiffs and Litigation Team on Court Order in Gear v. Knudson


Media Contacts

Debra Cronmiller,


The lawsuit has been appealed, and voting rights groups urge voters to wait for clarity from election officials before using reasonable effort statement as an alternative for witnessing absentee ballots.

MADISON, Wis. – Yesterday, the district court in Gear v. Knudson granted some relief to protect the rights of self-quarantining voters who are at risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19, do not live with another adult U.S. citizen, and as a result cannot obtain a witness signature on their mail-in ballot, as required under Wisconsin law. Under that order, voters who provide a written affirmation or other statement that they were unable to safely obtain a witness certification despite reasonable efforts to do so must have their mail-in ballots counted, as long as the ballots are otherwise valid.

However, the trial court’s order has already been appealed by the intervenor-defendants, the Republican Party of Wisconsin and the Republican National Committee, and its fate is uncertain. For that reason, Plaintiffs, including League of Women Voters of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, and Fair Elections Center urge voters to wait for clarity from state and local election officials before using the reasonable effort statement as an alternative for witnessing absentee ballots. Plaintiffs and their legal team also call upon the Wisconsin Elections Commission to provide concrete guidance on this court’s order at the earliest possible moment, so that voters have clear rules to cast their ballots in a timely manner.

The court’s ruling made other changes to Wisconsin election law, including, subject to changes on appeal, extending the deadline to request an absentee ballot for the April 7 election to April 3, 2020, at 5:00 p.m. We urge voters to request their absentee ballot today, before the 5:00 p.m. deadline.

The parties in Gear v. Knudson are represented by Jon Sherman, Michelle Kanter Cohen, and Cecilia Aguilera at Fair Elections Center, and Doug Poland at Rathje Woodward LLC in Madison.

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The Wisconsin Alliance of Retired Americans is a state affiliate of the national Alliance of Retired Americans established in 2001 to promote the dignity, fulfillment and retirement security of all older Americans.

The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin is a nonpartisan political organization that advocates for informed and active participation in government. There are 20 local Leagues throughout Wisconsin. More information at

Fair Elections Center is a national nonpartisan voting rights and election reform 501c3 organization based in Washington, DC whose mission is to use litigation and advocacy to remove barriers to registration and voting, and to improve election administration.

Doug Poland is an attorney at Rathje Woodward LLC with 25 years of experience in complex litigation. Mr. Poland served as lead trial counsel for plaintiffs who successfully challenged the Wisconsin Assembly legislative districts before three-judge federal court panels in 2012 and 2016, and is one of the members of the legal team that represented the respondents before the U.S. Supreme Court in Gill v. Whitford.


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