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WI COVID-19 Litigation

Gear v. Knudson

Under Wisconsin law, voters who cast absentee mail-in ballots must ensure their ballots are witnessed and signed by another U.S. citizen in order for them to count. However, in March 2020, thousands of voters at risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 confined themselves to their homes, and Governor Evers issued an emergency order requiring Wisconsinites to stay home. The order came only a few weeks before Wisconsin's Supreme Court election and presidential primary on April 7th. Because of Wisconsin's witness requirement for mail-in absentee ballots, at-risk voters who live alone - many of them senior citizens – were forced to choose between endangering their lives to exercise their right to vote or foregoing their right to vote altogether.

 

On March 26, 2020, we filed a lawsuit challenging this rule as unconstitutionally burdensome during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our clients included individual voters who are at risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19, who do not have another adult U.S. citizen in their households to witness their mail-in ballots, and who were in self-quarantine at their homes for several weeks in order to protect their health. We also represented the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, whose members were impacted by this rule.

 

We later filed a motion asking the court to suspend the witness requirement and to require clerks to offer voters a fail-safe option for receiving their ballots if they did not receive their requested ballots by mail. Although the court granted our request with respect to the fail-safe option, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and Supreme Court blocked it.

  LEGAL DOCUMENTS  

 

Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction (3.28.20)

Complaint (3.26.20)

First Amended Complaint (6.29.20)

Preliminary Injunction Brief (7.9.20)

Preliminary Injunction Order (9.21.20)

Preliminary Injunction Opinion (9.21.20)

Application to Vacate Stay (10.13.20)

  PRESS  

Statement from Fair Elections Center, Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans and the League of Women Voters Wisconsin on filing of federal lawsuit

Absentee Ballot Delivery Failures in Wisconsin Draw New Legal Challenges to Give Voters Fail-Safe Options

Ruling Provides Wisconsin Voters with Fail Safe for Absentee Voting in November

US Supreme Court Declines to Restore Fail-Safe for Wisconsin Absentee Ballots