In the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, President Trump and his allies brought numerous lawsuits, seeking to overturn the reported result in various states. Those efforts all failed, not necessarily because the cases’ arguments were not meritorious, and certainly not because voter fraud didn’t occur, but because there was no time to litigate the necessary factual issues between the election and Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Wisconsin is a case in point. Uniquely for the 2020 election, Wisconsin adopted a system in which untended boxes were set up where anyone could drop an absentee ballot, filled out by himself or by someone else. This unprecedented measure, which obviously made it easier to commit fraud, was justified by reference to the dreaded covid epidemic.
But were these untended and anonymous drop boxes legal under Wisconsin law? Trump’s Wisconsin lawsuit questioned them, but it failed because one conservative justice voted with three Democrats to dismiss the case on the ground that by December, it was too late to rule on the legality of the ballots that were cast in November.
Today the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided Teigen v. Wisconsin Elections Commission, revisiting the legality of the untended drop boxes. On a 4-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the untended absentee ballot drop boxes were illegal under Wisconsin law.
I won’t analyze the opinion in detail; you can read it for yourself. I think the majority has much the better of the argument over statutory interpretation. The three-Democrat minority opinion is long on hysteria and short on statutory analysis.
But that isn’t the point. The point is that the failure of Trump’s many post-2020 lawsuits says little about their ultimate merits. Election integrity is a serious problem, and it was compromised in many states in 2020. In my own state, Minnesota, and a number of others, a corrupt Secretary of State (here, Steve Simon) “settled” collusive litigation brought by the Democratic Party by agreeing to dispense with the requirement of a witness signature on mail-in ballots. The Secretary of State had no constitutional authority to do away with the principal safeguard, under Minnesota’s election laws, against fraud in mail-in ballots. But he did it anyway.
This kind of corruption was seen in state after state. In Philadelphia and Detroit, Democrats locked Republicans out of the buildings where ballot counting was going on. Do you think they did that because they were qualifying and counting the ballots honestly?
The lesson of 2020 is twofold: election integrity is a serious problem, and it is one that can be addressed only before the election. Once illegal ballots have been cast, it is too late. There is no way to know how many illegal ballots were dropped into Wisconsin’s untended ballot boxes, or how many illegal mail-in votes were cast in Minnesota without the required witness signature. Nor is there any way to know for whom those ballots were cast. Once the votes are counted, the egg can’t be unscrambled. And courts, in any event, are not going to undertake the task of sorting out who *really* won a presidential election.
We have from now until November to try to make sure that the midterm election is conducted as honestly as possible, and from now until November 2024 to see that the next presidential election is conducted as honestly as possible. Neither will be perfect–our elections have never been perfect, and the Democratic Party is determined to cheat–but today’s decision out of Wisconsin is a reminder of how important the fight for election integrity is.