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Wisconsin state court judge rules against Trump lawsuit

 President Trump and President-elect Joe Biden on a debate stage
President Trump and Joe Biden on the debate stage in October.
(Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

A Wisconsin judge on Friday ruled against President Trump’s lawsuit seeking to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s win in the state, another in a string of defeats in the president’s extraordinary attempts to undo his loss.

Trump was expected to quickly appeal the ruling from Reserve Judge Stephen Simanek to the conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court, even though his chances there appear to be slim. Trump also has a federal lawsuit in Wisconsin where the judge could rule as soon as Friday.

Trump has been urging lower court judges to rule quickly in the cases so he can file appeals before the Electoral College meets on Monday and casts Wisconsin’s 10 votes for Biden.

Biden won Wisconsin by about 20,600 votes, a margin of 0.6% that withstood a Trump-requested recount in the state’s two largest counties. Trump asked in the state lawsuit to disqualify more than 221,000 votes in the Democratic strongholds of Dane and Milwaukee counties.

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Trump did not challenge any ballots cast in counties he won.

Simanek ruled Friday that the rules and guidelines of the election were followed during the recount. He said there was no evidence to back up Trump’s claims.

“The bottom line here is that the court should do everything to ensure that the will of the voters prevail,” the judge said.

Trump also wanted to disqualify absentee ballots cast early and in-person, saying there wasn’t a proper written request made for the ballots; absentee ballots cast by people who claimed “indefinitely confined” status; absentee ballots collected by poll workers at Madison parks; and absentee ballots where clerks filled in missing information on ballot envelopes.

Trump’s attorney Jim Troupis argued that clerks in Milwaukee and Dane counties were wrong to rely on guidance from the Wisconsin Elections Commission on absentee ballots. He argued that guidance, some of which had been in place for years or was modified in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic to make it easier for indefinitely confined people to cast ballots, contradicted state law.

Biden attorney John Devaney argued Friday that everyone who voted in the presidential election did so “in full compliance of the laws that were in effect at the time of the election.” There is no evidence of fraud or illegal activity, he said. Devaney also said Trump “cynically” targeted ballots cast in Wisconsin’s two most urban, nonwhite counties for disqualification.

Devaney noted that no one challenged the laws that had been in place prior to this election, including Trump when he won the state in 2016.

Trump and his allies have suffered a string of defeats in Wisconsin and across the country as they’ve put forward lawsuits that rely on unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud and election abuse. A Trump-appointed federal judge in Wisconsin said Thursday that the president’s lawsuit was “incredible,” “bizarre” and “very odd,” and asking to overturn the results would be “the most remarkable ruling in the history of this court or the federal judiciary.”

U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig promised to issue his ruling as soon as Friday.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court court previously refused to hear his case before it went through the lower courts. A majority of justices have also openly questioned whether disqualifying the ballots, as Trump is seeking, would be appropriate.

Also Friday, Republican-controlled committees in the state Legislature held an invite-only public hearing to accept testimony about the election. Republicans asked mainly conservative partisans to speak, including a Milwaukee talk radio host, but not the state’s top elections official or the head of elections in the city or county of Milwaukee.


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