The Green Party is weighing legal options after the state Supreme Court rejected its suit seeking to place presidential candidate Howie Hawkins on the Wisconsin ballot.
Otherwise, party backers will have to look at a write-in campaign for Hawkins and vice presidential candidate Angela Walker.
In a 4-3 decision, the court ruled it was too late to grant the relief the Green Party was seeking with many communities having already printed ballots. The court also worried that ordering the printing and mailing of new ballots could create confusion for those voters who had already received and possibly returned the original ballot.
Hawkins told WisPolitics.com in a phone interview the party had a hard time finding a lawyer to take the case, eventually searching online until finding someone. He says the party filed the suit as soon as it could.
“The facts show we should’ve been on the ballot,” he said, adding the dissents read like the party “dictated them.”
Attorney Jeffrey Mandell, who represented the retired lawyer who filed the original challenge to Hawkins’ nomination papers, praised the ruling for allowing “Wisconsin’s election to proceed in an orderly, lawful fashion.”
The court majority is urging the Legislature to look at lengthening the time between the commission ruling on challenges to nomination papers and when ballots must be sent to voters.
The Green Party originally turned in 3,737 signatures with 2,000 needed to qualify for the ballot. But they were challenged because the documents filed with the Elections Commission listed two different addresses for vice presidential candidate Angela Walker, who moved during the window that nomination papers were circulated.
Ultimately, the commission on Aug. 20 certified 1,789 signatures but noted it deadlocked on the validity of another 1,834 due to insufficient evidence on where Walker lived at the time those papers were circulated.
The party waited until Sept. 3 to file its request with the state Supreme Court to take up the case directly and issue an order placing Hawkins and Walker on the ballot.
Local clerks face a state deadline on Thursday to mail ballots to those with an absentee ballot request already on file. Federal law requires them to go out by Saturday to military and overseas voters.
In a footnote, the majority wrote that even if a candidate launched an immediate challenge to a decision by the Elections Commission, a court would have to decide the issue “on an extremely expedited basis.”
“We urge the legislature to consider broadening the statutory timelines to afford a more reasonable amount of time for a party to file an action raising a ballot access issue,” the majority wrote.
Three of the court’s conservatives torched the ruling, charging it amounted to voter suppression.
Chief Justice Pat Roggensack, joined by conservative colleagues Rebecca Bradley and Annette Ziegler in dissent, called the commission’s actions “unlawful.”
Roggensack wrote the Green Party followed all of the requirements under state law, but the commission “suppressed the people’s right to choose to vote for Green Party candidates who have maintained positions that are important to them.”
Meanwhile, Bradley compared the majority’s decision to efforts to block ballot access for Black candidates in Alabama in the 1960s.
“America has witnessed such tactics in the past,” she wrote. “History repeats itself, as Wisconsin’s highest court rewards rather than rebuffs such unlawful maneuvers.”
It was the third high-profile case in which Justice Brian Hagedorn broke with his fellow conservatives on the court. In the previous two cases, the conservative majority was 5-2 and not 4-3 as it is now.
Earlier this year, Hagedorn opposed the court taking original jurisdiction in a case seeking to force off the rolls voters who may have moved, but hadn’t responded to a mailer from the Elections Commission. With then-Justice Daniel Kelly sitting out the case, the court deadlocked 3-3. Hagedorn then sided with two liberal colleagues as the conservative majority overturned Gov. Tony Evers’ extended stay-at-home order. Since those cases, liberal Jill Karofsky has replaced Kelly on the court.
Read the decision: