Members of the Milwaukee County Board of Canvassers talk among themselves Nov. 20 at the Wisconsin Center before the county's recount begins. At left is Republican Rick Baas, at center is Democratic Board Chairman Tim Posnanski, and at right is Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson. (Photo by Jonathon Sadowski)
Members of the Milwaukee County Board of Canvassers talk among themselves Nov. 20 at the Wisconsin Center before the county's recount begins. At left is Republican Rick Baas, at center is Democratic Board Chairman Tim Posnanski, and at right is Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson. (Photo by Jonathon Sadowski)

President Donald Trump gets handed yet another loss in his war on the election.

A reserve circuit court judge on Friday morning rejected outgoing President Donald Trump’s state-level lawsuit that aimed to throw out over 221,000 votes in Milwaukee and Dane counties.

The court decision marked yet another defeat in Trump’s legal war on the Nov. 3 election, which he lost by about 20,600 votes in Wisconsin and seven million votes nationally. Had Trump succeeded in throwing out vast swaths of votes in the heavily Democratic Dane and Milwaukee counties, the state’s 10 electors almost certainly would have flipped to the incumbent president as opposed to President-elect Joe Biden.

“The petitioner appellants here have not demonstrated that an erroneous interpretation of Wisconsin early voting laws happened here,” said Stephen Simanek, a retired Racine County judge assigned to the case by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Pat Roggensack.

Simanek made the decision to issue his ruling from the bench, citing the urgency with which any challenges to the election must be resolved. The federally mandated safe harbor deadline for states to resolve election disputes has already passed, and the Electoral College votes on Monday.

“Time is of the essence here. In less than 100 hours the electors need to vote,” Simanek said.

Trump can still file an appeal to Simanek’s decision, but there is virtually no chance it would succeed due to the impending Electoral College vote.

Trump attorney Jim Troupis indicated the campaign will file an appeal. 

“Obviously the [Wisconsin] Supreme Court is expecting to hear from us shortly,” Troupis said.

Trump’s legal team specifically hoped to toss: 170,140 in-person absentee ballots that did not have a separate written application (in fact, ballot envelopes count as applications for early in-person voting); 5,517 absentee ballots where clerks “cured” the envelopes (curing is a legal, common practice); 28,395 absentee ballots where voters claimed the “indefinitely confined” status (state law leaves it up to the voter to consider themselves indefinitely confined or not); and 17,271 absentee ballots returned to clerks in Madison at ballot collection events.

The president’s legal team alleged those ballots were improperly included in a recount in Dane and Milwaukee counties that failed to turn up any significant changes to the election.

Trump filed a lawsuit last week with the state Supreme Court, and the court declined to hear the suit. Trump refiled in Dane and Milwaukee circuit courts. 

The disputed practices were in line with the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s statewide guidance. All those practices, except for the Madison collection events, were seen throughout the entire state, not just Milwaukee and Dane counties. 

“They have very cynically targeted the two most urban, nonwhite, and Democratic counties, even though voters in the other 70 counties voted using the exact same procedures plaintiffs claim are unlawful,” said John Devaney, a Biden attorney.

Trump attorney Jim Troupis, who would have thrown out his own vote if he won the case, falsely claimed the Elections Commission’s guidance was illegal.

“The idea that WEC supersedes the law or that WEC’s advice is an absolute defense is unsupported,” Troupis said of the board created by state Republicans in 2015.

Part of Biden, the Elections Commission, and the counties’ defense relied upon laches, the legal doctrine that says legal actions cannot be taken after an unreasonable delay. Trump’s campaign filed the lawsuit on Dec. 3, a month after the election. 

“Plaintiffs’ delay here could not be more prejudicial to the 220,00-plus voters affected by this request for belief,” Devaney said. “The prejudice is outright disenfranchisement and a denial of their right to vote.” 

Troupis claimed laches did not apply in this case and said there is no evidence the campaign waited too long to file the lawsuit. But the challenged practices have been in effect for multiple elections over the course of multiple years and were never the subject of any legal debate until now.

Friday morning’s hearing came a day after a judge heard arguments in a federal lawsuit from the Trump campaign that seeks to throw out the entire election, not just votes in Dane and Milwaukee counties. US Circuit Court Judge Brett Ludwig, a Trump appointee, seemed skeptical of Trump’s arguments and said he would issue a ruling within a couple days of the Thursday hearing.