Supreme Court needs to stop meddling in election politics
Taylor County clerk Andria Farrand was in a county budget meeting Thursday afternoon when she received an urgent alert from the Wisconsin Election Commission.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court had just issued a peculiar order halting the distribution of the ballots and demanding a host of information about who has requested ballots, the number of ballots printed and if any had been sent out. Farrand and other local election officials around the state had just hours to comply and provide this information to the elections commission in order to meet the court ordered deadline.
To put this in perspective, a decision by four of the seven justices, forced the state’s 1,850 municipal clerks to put on hold the 2.3 million absentee ballots that had been printed and calls into doubt the 378,482 ballots that had already been mailed out.
Prior to the court’s meddling, election officials in the state were poised to beat the Sept. 17 deadline by which, under state law, ballots must go out.
On Monday, thanks to conservative justice Brian Hagedorn putting common sense above party gamesmanship, the court reversed itself and ruled clerks could continue following the law and send out the absentee ballots on time.
Ostensibly, the Supreme Court had halted the process to make sure that there wasn’t some sinister conspiracy to keep Green Party candidates Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker off the ballot. Don’t be surprised if you have never heard those names before. You are not likely to ever hear them again in national politics.
Wisconsin’s threshold for getting on the ballot is fairly minimal with presidential hopefuls only needing to collect 2,000 valid signatures and deliver them to the election commission office by the deadline. Vanity candidate Kanye West just missed getting on the ballot in Wisconsin because his petition was turned in minutes after the deadline. In the Green Party’s case, the South Carolina motel which was on the signature sheets didn’t match the candidate’s address. The candidates had an opportunity weeks ago to explain the difference to the election commission and possibly get put on the ballot, but instead waited until after the ballots were being printed in order to file suit. Rules exist for reasons and ignoring those rules have consequences.
In the real world, neither of these candidates has any chance of winning the presidential election. As with all the other so-called third party candidates, the most they can hope to do is to siphon off enough protest votes from either of the two major parties to influence the outcome because Wisconsin awards all its electoral votes to the person who has the most votes rather than requiring someone to have a majority.
In seeking to undermine the state election process for political ends, the state supreme court was exercising a particularly pernicious form of judicial advocacy, one that actively seeks to ignore the will of the people or even the rule of law.
Meddling with elections demeans the stature of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and weakens respect for it as an impartial arbiter of the law. While the legislature and governor’s office are inherently mired in the political swamp, the supreme court should be setting an example and rising above partisan bickering and be independent of the political process. All Wisconsin residents suffer when the court becomes nothing more than a mouthpiece for party politics.