Jeramey Jannene

Mayoral Candidate Sues To Delay Election

Lena Taylor's suit alleges African Americans disenfranchised by city's changes to early voting.

By - Apr 4th, 2020 10:41 am
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Lena Taylor delivers the Real State of the City. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Lena Taylor delivers the Real State of the City. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Senator Lena Taylor has filed a lawsuit in federal court to delay the April 7th Spring Election until September.

The suit argues that African American voters, particularly those residing in the 53206 ZIP code, are being disenfranchised by the state and city’s election processes. The ZIP code, represented by Taylor in the Wisconsin State Legislature, has often been cited as one of the worst in the country for the African American males. Approximately 94 percent of its residents are African Americans.

Taylor, an African American who lives on the northern edge of the 53206 ZIP code, is challenging incumbent Mayor Tom Barrett.

The suit centers around the city’s decision to cancel in-person early voting on March 22nd and encourage people to request an absentee ballot while closing libraries that 53206 residents rely on to access the internet. “Without authority to do so, The Milwaukee Election Commission made unlawful changes to the election rules which disproportionately restrict African American voters who reside in the 53206-zip code,” says the filing in Eastern District of Wisconsin.” The suit says the decision has forced 53206 residents to take public transportation from the area in Wisconsin with the highest COVID-19 case rate to a downtown drive-up voting site.

Taylor, an attorney, was joined by community activist and sixth district aldermanic candidate Tory Lowe and non-profit Justice Wisconsin. The plaintiffs are represented by Paul A. Strouse and Thomas Napierala. Strouse is listed as the registered agent for Justice Wisconsin in state records, but the suit says Lowe is the founder. The organization was formed in May 2019.

The defendants in the suit are the Milwaukee Election Commission and Wisconsin Elections Commission.

The suit asks the election to be postponed until September 8th and the election be converted to mail-in only.

The city is currently scheduled to have only five in-person voting sites, down from 180, as a result of a shortage of over 1,000 poll workers. Lowe’s aldermanic opponent, incumbent Milele A. Coggs, raised concerns Friday that reducing the number of voting sites puts people at risk to contract COVID-19. Statewide, municipal clerks are short nearly 7,000 poll workers.

Governor Tony Evers called a special session of the Wisconsin Legislature for Saturday at 4 p.m. to convert the election to mail-in only and delay the election until May, but Republicans that control both houses of the Legislature have been outspoken in their opposition to moving the election.

Barrett and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele have called for the election to be converted to mail-in only and delayed.

You can read the plaintiff’s full filing on Urban Milwaukee.

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More about the 2020 Spring Primary

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