By Gretchen Schuldt
A conservative group that earlier tried unsuccessfully to block more than $6.3 million in privately funded grants awarded to five Wisconsin cities is now trying to block such grants in the future.
The grants are to help the cities run elections.
"When local governments and their officials accept private moneys to conduct federal elections, the government interferes with the integrity of a core governmental public function embodied within the federal election process...." the Wisconsin Voters Alliance said in an amended complaint.
Accepting private money for elections also "undermines the rights and obligations the voter is entitled to rely upon from the United States which implicates the integrity of the election," the complaint said.
U.S. District Judge William Griesbach last month ruled that WVA and seven of its members failed to show that they were reasonably likely to prevail in their first effort to block the grants from the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life. The grants were designated for Racine, Milwaukee, Kenosha, Green Bay, and Madison.
In that complaint, WVA said that CTCL has progressive leanings and that grant recipients show “high rates of progressive voters.” WVA argued that the cities had no authority to accept the grants.
WVA has appealed Griesbach's ruling against it.
CTCL awarded Milwaukee $2.2 million; Madison, $1.3 million; Green Bay, $1.1 million; Racine, $942,000; and Kenosha, $863,000. CTCL it seeks to modernize elections and make them more professional, inclusive and secure.
The amended complaint, filed in Federal Court in Milwaukee, alleges that the private grants violate several provisions of the the U.S. Constitution, including the Elections Clause of Article I and the First, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments.
By accepting the private grants and agreeing to report back to CTCL, the complaint says, the cities were obligated to run their federal elections "at least in part, in a manner that satisfied the private entity, and not the United States."
Such elections could be disputed, leading Congress to reject the announced outcome and refuse to seat the purported winner.
"Then each of the individual plaintiff's vote did not count, regardless of who she voted for because the rejection invalidated the federal election process," the suit alleges.
The cities, in a court filing, said the plaintiffs did not have standing to pursue their claims. Similar suits have been dismissed in other jurisdictions, they said.
"The cities have utilized the grant funds to make it easier and safer for everyone to vote in the middle of a pandemic...." the cities said. "Not only is plaintiffs’ claimed election-invalidation injury speculative and conjectural, the cities cannot find any basis in law or history to support plaintiffs’ assertions that a municipality’s receipt of private funding for neutral, generally applicable election administration affords any basis to doubt the integrity or outcome of the election."
WVA is represented by the Amistad Project of the Thomas More Society, a law firm "dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty," according to its website.
The cities are represented by their city attorney's offices, according to the filing.
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