The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday rejected the Green Party presidential candidate’s bid to be added to the state ballot, clearing the way for clerks to resume sending over a million absentee ballots requested by voters.
The high court ruled that Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins’s request to make it onto the state ballot came too late for any relief “that would not cause confusion and undue damage” a mere 7 weeks before the election, according to an opinion issued Monday (pdf).
Justice Brian Hagedorn, a conservative, joined the court’s liberals for a 4-3 decision that kept Hawkins off the ballot. The state Supreme Court put the mailing of absentee ballots on hold Thursday while it considered whether Hawkins should be added.
The high court said Hawkins waited too long to bring his legal challenge.
“Even if we would ultimately determine that the petitioners’ claims are meritorious, given their delay in asserting their rights, we would be unable to provide meaningful relief without completely upsetting the election,” the majority wrote in an unsigned opinion.
Three conservative judges, Chief Justice Patience Roggensack and Justices Rebecca Bradley and Annette Ziegler, dissented.
“This lawsuit is not about the Green Party sleeping on its rights,” Roggensack wrote in an opinion joined by the other dissenting judges. “It is about the treatment that independent candidates from a small political party received from the commission, who repeatedly refused to follow the law relative to nomination papers.”
It comes after rap star Kanye West, in a decision Friday by Brown County Circuit Judge John Zakowski, was also denied a spot on the Wisconsin ballot. West had filed a lawsuit in Brown County asking the local court to put him and running mate Michelle Tidball on the ballot in November. Zakowski ruled that the state elections commission was correct in determining that the musician narrowly missed a 5 p.m. filing deadline.
“The unfortunate fact is this dispute could have been avoided had the West representatives simply arrived earlier,” the judge said. “Candidates need to plan ahead and arrive in time to get into the building and file the papers in the office of the commission prior to the deadline, there are no exceptions under the statute or the relevant case law.”
The decisions were welcomed by Democrats, who feared Hawkins and West could siphon votes from presidential nominee Joe Biden in a battleground state that Trump won by a narrow margin of around 23,000 votes in 2016. Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential candidate 4 years ago, won 31,006 votes in Wisconsin.
Following last Thursday’s state Supreme Court decision to put mailing of absentee ballots on hold until it could consider Hawkins’s challenge, local election clerks expressed dismay.
“This is potentially a huge disaster,” said Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell, in remarks to The Associated Press. “Just the delay of a decision is deeply irresponsible and jeopardizes the integrity of our election.”
Election clerks face a Sept. 17 deadline to mail absentee ballots to anyone who had already requested one, although anyone who makes a request later will still be mailed a ballot. Oct. 29 is the deadline for most voters to request a ballot by mail. Returned ballots must be received by the time polls close at 8 p.m. on Election Day.
State elections officials have estimated that more than 2 million of the state’s roughly 3 million eligible voters will cast absentee ballots, largely due to concerns about the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.