The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday rejected the appeal by Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker, the Green Party candidates for President and Vice President, to appear on the Wisconsin ballot. The decision avoided thrusting Wisconsin into election chaos by declining to order the reprinting of hundreds of thousands of ballots just days before county clerks were required to mail them to voters who requested an absentee ballot.
The legal challenge arose after the Wisconsin Election Commission voted to verify only 1,789 of the 3,966 signatures Hawkins and Walker submitted. The signatures were challenged because Walker’s address on some of the signature forms was not accurate. The Wisconsin Election Commission then concluded that Hawkins and Walker did not meet the 2,000 valid signature requirement to appear on the Wisconsin ballot.
Although the matter was time-sensitive, Hawkins and Walker waited two weeks to appeal. The court, in a 4-3 decision, wrote:
Even if we would ultimately determine that the petitioners’ claims are meritorious, given their delay in asserting their rights, we would be unable to provide meaningful relief without completely upsetting the election. We agree with the Commission that requiring municipalities to print and send a second round of ballots to voters who already received, and potentially already returned, their first ballot would result in confusion and disarray and would undermine confidence in the general election results. Under the circumstances presented here, it would be unfair both to Wisconsin voters and to the other candidates on the general election ballot to interfere in an election that, for all intents and purposes, has already begun.
The court also noted that Wisconsin law required that ballots must be sent out to voters by September 17. Wisconsin county clerks expressed concern that both the cost and time spent reprinting hundreds of thousands of ballots would have made meeting the September 17 deadline unfeasible.
The court’s decision came as a surprise, to observers. In dissent, Chief Justice Patience Roggensack concluded that the decision by the Wisconsin Election Commission “suppressed the people’s right to choose to vote for Green Party candidates who have maintained positions that are important to them.”
After the ruling, Hawkins was candid in his assessment: “We were screwed.” Hawkins was criticized for retaining a conservative law firm to appeal the decision of the Wisconsin Election Commission. Furthermore, the legal bills were paid for by an anonymous conservative donor.
The decision to preclude the left-wing party from appearing on the ballot was seen as a victory for the Biden campaign. In 2016, Green Party candidate Jill Stein received 31,072 votes in Wisconsin, larger than the 22,748 vote margin by which Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin.