Federal Appeals Court Tosses Trump’s Election Lawsuit in Wisconsin

Federal Appeals Court Tosses Trump’s Election Lawsuit in Wisconsin
President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Dec. 7, 2020. (Patrick Semansky/AP Photo)
Janita Kan

A federal appeals court on Thursday dismissed President Donald Trump’s lawsuit in Wisconsin that sought to declare that election officials had acted unconstitutionally during the 2020 presidential election.

A three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled to uphold a lower court decision rejecting the president’s case that argues that the 2020 election in Wisconsin was conducted in an unlawful and unconstitutional manner.

That federal judge, Brett Ludwig, opined that Trump had failed to show that Wisconsin election officials had violated his right under the Electors Clause in the U.S. constitution and that his challenge lacked merit as he only objected to the administration of the election.

Instead, Ludwig said he found that Wisconsin’s presidential electors were being chosen “in the very manner directed by the Legislature,” as required by the constitution.

“We agree that Wisconsin lawfully appointed its electors in the manner directed by its Legislature and add that the President’s claim also fails because of the unreasonable delay that accompanied the challenges the President now wishes to advance against Wisconsin’s election procedures,” the appeals court panel wrote in its opinion (pdf).

The president filed the lawsuit against the Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) and other state officials on Dec. 2, alleging that they violated the constitution when the WEC issued guidance on “missing or incorrect absentee ballot witness certificate addresses, voters claiming indefinitely confined status, and absentee ballot drop boxes.”

The lawsuit argues that the WEC lacks the power to issue guidance that violates the state’s own election laws as passed by the Wisconsin state legislature.

To remedy the situation, Trump asked the court to declare that election officials had violated the constitution and to order the Wisconsin Legislature to provide appropriate relief pursuant to Article II, Section 1.2 in the constitution.

The appeals court also said that it only reviewed the case within the scope of the Electors Clause and did not venture into deciding state law.

“That responsibility rests with the State’s Supreme Court. Put another way, the errors that the President alleges occurred in the Commission’s exercise of its authority are in the main matters of state law,” the panel wrote.

It added that the Wisconsin Supreme Court also rejected the president’s claims in the case Trump v. Biden, which was heard around the same time as the federal case.

In that case, the justices found that one of the Trump campaign’s arguments lacked merit, while the other three were raised too late.

“The challenge to the indefinitely confined voter ballots is meritless on its face, and the other three categories of ballots challenged fail under the doctrine of laches,” conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn, who joined another three liberal justices to form a majority, wrote in the court’s opinion.

Trump and his campaign are fighting against the clock to seek a determination from the courts over a slew of evidence they say raises questions over whether the 2020 election was stained by fraud and last-minute unconstitutional rule changes due to the voting measures introduced for health and safety during pandemic. If so, the president is seeking to invalidate ballots and allow state legislatures to decide on which electoral college votes should be counted on Jan. 6 during the joint session of Congress.

A number of Republican lawmakers are also preparing to challenge the electoral college votes for contested states during that session, as they are worried that the unresolved nature of voter fraud allegations could taint the integrity of elections for decades to come.