Gretchen Schuldt
Court Watch

Appeal Seeks to Block Election Grants

Conservative group opposes $6.3 million in private grants helping pay for elections in five Wisconsin cities.

By , Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Nov 9th, 2020 02:00 pm
Lewis Tribune, right, has worked elections for past 20 years. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

Lewis Tribune, right, has worked elections for past 20 years. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

A conservative group that earlier tried unsuccessfully to block more than $6.3 million in privately funded grants awarded to five Wisconsin cities has now filed an amended complaint, trying to prevent such funding in the future.

The grants are to help the cities run elections.

“When local governments and their officials accept private moneys to conduct federal elections, the government interferes with the integrity of a core governmental public function embodied within the federal election process….” the Wisconsin Voters Alliance WVA) said in an amended complaint.

Accepting private money for elections also “undermines the rights and obligations the voter is entitled to rely upon from the United States which implicates the integrity of the election,” the complaint said.

U.S. District Judge William C. Griesbach last month ruled that WVA and seven of its members failed to show that they were reasonably likely to prevail in their first effort to block the grants from the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL). The grants were designated for Racine, Milwaukee, Kenosha, Green Bay, and Madison.

In that complaint, WVA said that CTCL has progressive leanings and that grant recipients show “high rates of progressive voters.” WVA argued that the cities had no authority to accept the grants.

However, Griesbach wrote that “it is important to note that Plaintiffs do not challenge any of the specific expenditures the defendant Cities have made in an effort to ensure safe and efficient elections can take place in the midst of the pandemic that has struck the nation over the last eight months… In other words, Plaintiffs do not claim that the defendant Cities are using funds to encourage only votes in favor of one party.”

WVA has appealed Griesbach’s ruling against it.

CTCL awarded Milwaukee $2.2 million; Madison, $1.3 million; Green Bay, $1.1 million; Racine, $942,000; and Kenosha, $863,000. CTCL seeks to modernize elections and make them more professional, inclusive and secure.

The amended complaint, filed in Federal Court in Milwaukee, alleges that the private grants violate several provisions of the the U.S. Constitution, including the Elections Clause of Article I and the FirstNinth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

By accepting the private grants and agreeing to report back to CTCL, the complaint says, the cities were obligated to run their federal elections “at least in part, in a manner that satisfied the private entity, and not the United States.”

Such elections could be disputed, leading Congress to reject the announced outcome and refuse to seat the purported winner.

“Then each of the individual plaintiff’s vote did not count, regardless of who she voted for because the rejection invalidated the federal election process,” the suit alleges.

The cities, in a court filing, said the plaintiffs did not have standing to pursue their claims. Similar suits have been dismissed in other jurisdictions, they said.

“The cities have utilized the grant funds to make it easier and safer for everyone to vote in the middle of a pandemic….” the cities said. “Not only is plaintiffs’ claimed election-invalidation injury speculative and conjectural, the cities cannot find any basis in law or history to support plaintiffs’ assertions that a municipality’s receipt of private funding for neutral, generally applicable election administration affords any basis to doubt the integrity or outcome of the election.”

WVA is represented by the Amistad Project of the Thomas More Society, a law firm “dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty,” according to its website.

The cities are represented by their city attorney’s offices, according to the filing.

Gretchen Schuldt writes a blog for Wisconsin Justice Initiative, whose mission is “To improve the quality of justice in Wisconsin by educating the public about legal issues and encouraging civic engagement in and debate about the judicial system and its operation.”

One thought on “Court Watch: Appeal Seeks to Block Election Grants”

  1. Mingus says:

    We need to start looking at all of the Republican attempts to undermine our voting process along with voter suppression and gerrymandering as incremental steps moving towards a conservative totalitarian government that look out for the rich and keeps the rest of the citizens marginalized.

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