Swing Justice Brian Hagedorn gives little indication of his leaning in the state case. Simultaneously, a judge dismisses president’s federal lawsuit.
With two days before the Electoral College is set to vote for president, the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Saturday heard arguments in a lawsuit from outgoing President Donald Trump that seeks to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in heavily Democratic Milwaukee and Dane counties.
The state Supreme Court’s 4-3 conservative majority likely represents Trump’s final hope in his effort to overturn results of the Nov. 3 presidential election somewhere in the United States. In Wisconsin, Trump lost to President-elect Joe Biden by about 20,600 votes. Because of Trump’s razor-thin margin of defeat and Dane and Milwaukee counties’ heavy Democrat lean, a victory in the case would have almost certainly flipped the state and handed Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes to Trump.
While Trump would still lose at the Electoral College if he received Wisconsin’s 10 votes, having also lost every other major attempt to have courts interfere, but the significance of the effort to disenfranchise nearly a quarter-million voters in targeted counties cannot be understated.
Swing Justice Brian Hagedorn joined the Supreme Court’s three liberal justices in declining to hear the lawsuit directly on Dec. 3. Trump promptly refiled the lawsuit in a lower circuit court, and on Friday Reserve Racine County Judge Stephen Simanek sided against Trump.Hours later, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal and scheduled an unprecedented weekend hearing for noon Saturday.
Hagedorn gave little indication of which way he was leaning during Saturday’s hearing, but he did pen a fiery opinion a week ago in response to a separate lawsuit that sought to throw out the election entirely.
Trump’s legal team specifically hopes 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.
All of those categories of votes except for the Madison ballot collection events could be challenged in each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, but Trump instead chose to target the two largest, most urban, and diverse counties in Wisconsin.
“This lawsuit smacks of racism,” liberal Justice Jill Karofsky said to Trump attorney Jim Troupis.
Troupis claimed Trump targeted two counties because a statewide recount—quoted at $7.9 million—was too expensive. It was $3 million for the partial recount. As of Dec. 1 Trump had raised $170 million to fund his efforts to overturn the election.
“This isn’t about the amount of money this recount cost,” Karofsky shot back. “This is about disenfranchising voters in two counties and only two counties in the state of Wisconsin.”
Later in the hearing, Troupis weakly and falsely claimed: “We do not want to disenfranchise voters. We want the law enforced.”
Even as the Supreme Court was hearing the state case, the president lost a federal lawsuit that made the extraordinary request to throw out the entire Wisconsin election and allow the Republican-led Legislature to pick electors. Trump appointee Judge Brett Ludwig of the federal Wisconsin Eastern District Court rejected the lawsuit Saturday afternoon, two days after he heard arguments in the case.