Originally published in RealClearPolitics (Oct. 7, 2023)
A new lawsuit spearheaded by attorney Marc Elias’ left-wing legal group threatens to abolish the witness requirement for Wisconsin absentee ballots, potentially enabling ballot fraud on a massive scale in the 2024 election.
On Oct. 2, the Elias Law Group filed the lawsuit in federal court in conjunction with a lawyer from Pines Bach LLP, Diane M. Welsh. Welsh is a donor to, and former president of, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a far-left partisan group that supports mass illegal immigration, accuses Wisconsin Republicans of gerrymandering legislative maps, and wants to abolish the state’s photo ID law.
Marc Elias is a former elections lawyer for Perkins Coie, a top Democratic law firm, and was general counsel for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. In 2021, he launched his own D.C.-based law firm, Elias Law Group, to focus on “electing Democrats, supporting voting rights, and helping progressives make change.”
Since then, the Elias Law Group has raked in over $42 million in legal service fees from the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Party’s congressional campaign arm, and other leftist committees. One of its notable clients is the extreme anti-Trump group, the Lincoln Project.
Wisconsin law already offers no-excuse absentee voting, but an absentee voter must have a witness present to watch him sign his ballot and seal the ballot envelope. That’s the bare minimum security measure for the least secure way of running elections, but it’s too much for the left.
“If Wisconsin moves forward with these proposed changes to ballot drop box and absentee ballot ID rules, it’d lower the state’s elections operations confidence score from a C to a D,” said Voter Reference Foundation director Gina Swoboda in an email. “These changes take Wisconsin in the wrong direction, moving it away from election integrity and transparency and the increased the risk of losing voter confidence and with it voter participation.”
In the lawsuit, the Elias Law Group blasts the witness requirement as part of the “discriminatory state voting regulations” abolished by the 1965 Voting Rights Act – in other words, a relic of Jim Crow.
Wisconsin’s witness requirement means “absentee voters … face an ongoing threat that they will be disenfranchised,” the lawsuit claims, especially “minority voters, recently naturalized voters, and student voters.”
But ease of voting has nothing to do with Elias’ true goal: Making it easier for Democrats to harvest absentee ballots en masse in 2024 in nursing homes and other vulnerable areas. Sure enough, the lawsuit uses the example of an elderly woman, one of the plaintiffs, who is in poor health and therefore must vote via absentee ballot without the “burden” of a witness.
Recall that the Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC), the body that oversees voting in the Badger State, waived the requirement for special voting deputies to be present in care facilities for the November 2020 election.
State law normally authorizes these individuals to bring ballots to residential care facilities to help seniors vote, but Democratic Gov. Tony Evers prohibited them from doing so by declaring the deputies “non-essential” staff in a March 2020 executive order. Instead, the WEC directed local election officials to “mail an absentee ballot to those registered voters who reside in care facilities” and would otherwise be served by special voting deputies.
Assembly Republicans called for investigations into nursing home ballot fraud after Racine Sheriff Christopher Schmaling discovered multiple fraudulent absentee ballots in a nursing home.
The Federalist has also reported on the “rampant fraud and abuse [which] occurred statewide at Wisconsin’s nursing homes and other residential care facilities,” a fact discovered by a special counsel appointed by the Wisconsin Assembly to investigate the 2020 election.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul (D) has refused to investigate further.
“The most common problem is that activists or staff fill out the ballots for residents without respect to the residents’ free will or ability to choose,” said Lori Roman, president of the American Constitutional Rights Union, which monitors protections for vulnerable voters. “This lawsuit puts every vulnerable voter in Wisconsin at risk and cements Wisconsin’s reputation as the worst state in the country for vulnerable voters.”
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), the state’s top conservative legal group, has thoroughly documented serious problems with absentee ballots in the 2020 election. Over 265,000 Wisconsin voters used COVID-19 as an excuse to receive “indefinitely confined” status – reserved by law for physical infirmity or illness – so as to obtain an absentee ballot exempt from the state’s photo ID requirement.
More than 54,000 of these ballots were cast by voters who had never shown a voter ID in any previous election. Biden’s margin of victory was 20,684 votes.
But mass absentee balloting was only made possible with drop boxes paid for by $10 million in unaccountable grants from the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), courtesy of $420 million from leftist billionaire Mark Zuckerberg.
In fact, the entire “Zuck bucks” scheme originated in Wisconsin, whose five largest cities launched a “Safe Voting Plan” in June 2020, requesting private funding from CTCL. The plan was sold as helping all Americans vote during the pandemic; in reality, it aimed to “facilitate voter participation” among “our historically disenfranchised residents and communities,” code for likely Democratic voters (per the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center, FairVote, Brennan Center, and Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law).
We know that Zuck bucks boosted Democratic turnout in all the right places needed to flip the state for Joe Biden. Of the top 10 CTCL recipients, nine broke for Biden. Taken per capita, CTCL grants averaged $3.75 in Biden counties vs. a measly $0.55 in Trump counties.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled ballot drop boxes unconstitutional in July 2022, but by then the damage was done. Yet that wasn’t the end of the story.
As of writing, a lawsuit by the left-wing committee Priorities USA wants the high court to overturn its own drop box prohibition. That same lawsuit also seeks to waive the witness requirement for absentee ballots and extend the deadline to “cure” ballot errors from Election Day to the Friday after Election Day.
And the left has the majority it needs to radically transform Wisconsin elections, thanks to “progressive” Justice Janet Protasiewicz’s election in April 2023, handing Democrats a new majority on the state supreme court.
This is lawfare at its worst. If conservatives don’t start playing to win, they’ll soon find themselves unable to “play” at all.