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Civil Rights

Disabled Wisconsin Voters File Lawsuit to Preserve and Protect Absentee Voting

— July 26, 2022

The lawsuit alleges that a recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision will violate disabled residents’ vote to choose their own representatives.

A group of disabled voters have filed a federal lawsuit against Wisconsin shortly after the state Supreme Court issued a groundbreaking decision against absentee voting.

According to The Associated Press, the disabled Wisconsinites claim that they need assistance to file ballots—and that the Supreme Court’s decision would prevent them from exercising their constitutional right to participate in state and federal elections.

The lawsuit broadly alleges that the Supreme Could ruling violates the federal Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Without ballot-return assistance, many voters with disabilities, including Plaintiffs, would be unable to access Wisconsin’s absentee-voting program, rendering this statutorily provided method of voting unavailable to qualified voters with disabilities, even while it would remain available to other Wisconsin voters,” the lawsuit claims.

A 2016 image of a ballot drop box in Boulder County, Colorado. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user:pasa47 . (CCA-BY-2.0).

The Associated Press notes that disabled Wisconsin voters cannot even request a friend or loved one to help them mail a ballot: earlier this year, state Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe said that “right now, the voter is the one required to mail the ballot.”

Wolfe, adds PBS Wisconsin, was referring to a state law that stipulates that absentee ballot envelopes “shall be mailed by the elector, or delivered in person, to the municipal clerk issuing the ballot or ballots.”

The lawsuit suggests that Wolfe’s comments, taken in conjunction with the Supreme Court decision, “delivered a disturbing message to voters with disabilities: ballot-return assistance is prohibited in all circumstances throughout Wisconsin.”

“Plaintiffs are faced with an impossible, and unlawful, choice: abstain from voting altogether or risk that their ballots will be invalidated, or that their only available method to vote absentee (ballot-return assistance) could subject them to prosecution,” the lawsuit alleges.

“Federal law guarantees that voters with disabilities enjoy full and equal access to state voting programs and thus that they are entitled to ballot-return assistance,” it adds. “And when a state makes it impossible for some voters with disabilities to vote at all, it violates the U.S. Constitution.”

The Wisconsin Examiner notes that Wisconsin, and elements of its judiciary, began attacking absentee ballot programs after former U.S. President Donald Trump recited and repeated baseless claims that he lost the 2020 presidential election because of widespread election fraud.

Despite there being no evidence to suggest that such fraud ever occurred, Trump’s Republican allies in state governorships and legislatures have begun deconstructing longstanding electoral processes—most of which enable less-than-conservative voters to participate in elections with ease.

The Wisconsin lawsuit alleges that, no matter what politics may underlie the Supreme Court’s decision, preventing disabled residents from availing “ballot return assistance” services, effectively renders them disenfranchised.


Four disabled Wisconsin voters sue to protect their voting rights after Supreme Court absentee ballot decision

Wisconsin disabled voters file federal lawsuit over voting and absentee ballots

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