WAUKESHA, Wisc. (CN) – Republicans’ top two office-holders in the Legislature sued the state, claiming the design of the November ballot gives an unfair advantage to Democrats.
The campaign committees of Speaker of the Assembly Robin Vos and state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald sued the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, which runs the state’s elections, on Wednesday on Waukesha County Court.
They claim the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board’s redesign of the general election ballot will lead to confusion and under-voting, and give an unfair advantage to Democratic candidates.
“GAB’s decision to adopt a new ballot format that increases the likelihood of voter confusion, and thus unintentional under voted ballots, is an infringement of the right to vote guaranteed by the Wisconsin and federal Constitutions and is a direct violation of GAB’s statutory duty,” the complaint states.
The Government Accountability Board redesigned the ballot after the August primary elections. The campaign committees claim it is “extremely likely to violate the right to vote of thousands, if not millions of Wisconsin residents.”
The new ballot eliminates design elements recommended by researchers, including The Brennan Center and The MacArthur Foundation, according to the complaint.
The ballot does not use shading to delineate the office from the individual candidates, the complaint states, thus associating the office with the first listed candidate. On Wisconsin ballots, the first candidate is a Democrat.
Removing the shading behind the office name also affords more vertical space to the Democratic candidates, according to the complaint, which violates ballot best practices set forth by the researchers.
Another effect of the change in format is that voters are less likely to vote beyond the first election listed, the complaint states. Vos and Fitzgerald’s elections are further down the ballot and thus will likely be subject to under voting, according to the complaint.
“A genuine dispute, ripe for adjudication, exists between the plaintiffs and GAB that must be resolved as soon as possible,” the complaint states.
The Government Accountability Board has refused to allow a ballot proposed by the clerk of Brown County that more closely resembles the formatting of the primary ballot, the complaint states.
“GAB’s adoption of the new GAB ballot form will encumber the right of numerous Wisconsin electors to vote as guaranteed by Article III, section 1 of the Wisconsin Constitution and by the federal Constitution,” the complaint states.
The plaintiffs seek an injunction requiring general election ballots to include the same design elements used in the primary election, and a declaration that the new design is confusing, leads to under-voting and unfairly favors Democratic candidates.
Their lead counsel is Joseph Olson with Michael Best and Friedrich.
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