The Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) illegally used a form that was not authorized in accordance with state law to register new voters, a state court ruled on Tuesday.
Writing for the Waukesha County Circuit Court, Judge Michael Maxwell ruled that the WEC did not properly authorize the use of the National Mail Voter Registration Form (“National Form”) to register new voters by mail. The form is made available by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, an independent federal agency that provides resources regarding the administration of elections.
“WEC has failed in this most basic duty by allowing the National Form to be used in Wisconsin where WEC has never actually [prescribed] its use,” Maxwell wrote.
In its lawsuit filed on behalf of a Wisconsin resident last year, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) alleged the WEC’s use of the National Form was illegal because the agency failed to engage in proper “rulemaking” before authorizing its use. The legal group also claimed the form “adds extra criteria not authorized by statute or rule.”
The WEC tried to claim it had properly authorized the form’s use, but Maxwell specifically noted that the agency failed to produce evidence showing “that the National Form was approved by a prior election agency at some point in the past,” even when asked to do so by WILL’s client. The Wisconsin judge also eviscerated the WEC for “feebly” attempting to rely on an affidavit signed by Kevin Kennedy, “the election agency administrator for the prior two state elections agencies,” who couldn’t even substantiate the agency’s claims.
“Mr. Kennedy as the former chief administrator of elections in this state for nearly thirty-three years can not provide any credible evidence as to where, when, or how the National Form was approved,” Maxwell wrote. “Certainly, Mr. Kennedy offers no evidence that WEC approved the National Form as is required by” state law.
In addition to deeming Wisconsin’s unauthorized use of the National Form to register new voters illegal, the court enjoined the WEC from “issuing guidance of any kind that the National Form is approved for use or that the National Form may be used to register voters in Wisconsin,” unless and until the WEC “prescribes [its] use.” The agency is also required to “withdraw any such guidance” and inform local election clerks about the form’s illegality.
“It is unfortunate that time and time again Wisconsinites have to go to court to force state agencies to follow the law,” WILL Deputy Counsel Lucas Vebber said in a statement. “Today’s win is a tremendous victory for Wisconsinites, and sends yet another strong message to bureaucrats who disregard the rule of law.”
As Vebber indicated, Tuesday’s ruling is not the first time a court has found the WEC to have violated state law. In July 2022, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled the WEC’s authorization of ballot drop boxes during the 2020 election violated state law and further prohibited the devices from being used in future elections.
With the Wisconsin Supreme Court now controlled by Democrats, leftist legal groups have filed lawsuits in recent months seeking to overturn the high court’s prior drop box ruling. These same groups have also filed suit seeking to scrap state legislative maps drawn by Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature.