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Judge: Racine, Wisconsin’s Voting Van Unfairly Benefited Democrats And Was ‘Contrary To Law’

The ruling ultimately could be tested at the state Supreme Court, where left-leaning justices hold a slim 4-3 majority. 


In 2021, the city of Racine, Wisconsin purchased a “Mobile Election Unit,” tapping into more than $200,000 of the nearly $1.7 million the Democrat enclave received in “Zuckbucks” — election administration grants funded by private billionaire Mark Zuckerberg. The southeastern Wisconsin city of nearly 80,000 residents located on the shores of Lake Michigan used this “voting booth on wheels” to reach as many voters as possible, local elections officials claimed. 

But as one election integrity watchdog put it, Racine’s mobile voting van — the only one of its kind in the Badger State — isn’t about access; it’s all about turnout: specifically, turning out Democrat voters. 

Last week, a Racine County Circuit Court judge agreed with that assessment. 

In his ruling, Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz declared that nothing in state law allowed for the use of the voting van, and further found that its use at multiple, particular sites around the city gave Democrats a partisan advantage.

“No defendant or intervenor can point to any statute authorizing the use of mobile (van) absentee ballot sites; instead, the defendants argue no statute expressly prohibits them,” the judge concluded in his ruling. “The absence of an express prohibition, however, does not mean mobile absentee ballot sites comport to procedures specified in the election laws.” 

Who’s Driving This Thing?

The intervenors in the Wisconsin case include partisans such as the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC). The latter promotes far-left policies in the Milwaukee area as a project of Tides Advocacy, the “advocacy arm of the left-leaning Tides Foundation.” As Influence Watch notes, BLOC was “formed in response to President Donald Trump’s narrow victory in Wisconsin during the 2016 presidential election, a result that many on the left blamed on low turnout among African-American voters in Milwaukee.”

Where did the money for the van come from? As has been well documented, the leftist leaders of Wisconsin’s five largest cities — Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha, and Racine, known as the “Wisconsin Five” — got a huge assist from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, his wife, and their favorite left-wing “election reform” organization. 

Under the cover of a Covid emergency, Zuckerberg pumped a combined $400 million into the Center for Tech & Civic Life (CTCL) and the Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR) in pandemic “relief grants.” CTCL received the brunt of the funding, at least $328 million, according to IRS disclosures. The money was ostensibly intended for Covid mitigation efforts in election offices and polling centers, but much of the largesse went to pay for activists’ central efforts of expanding mail-in voting and targeted, get-out-the-vote initiatives. 

CTCL was founded in 2012 by some of the most partisan left players in U.S. politics, including Tianna Epps-Johnson, formerly of the New Organizing Institute (NOI), a Democratic campaign training organization, according to Influence Watch.

As The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway reports in her book, Rigged: How the Media, Big Tech and the Democrats Seized Our Elections, Epps-Johnson was “a former Obama Foundation fellow who previously worked on the Voting Rights Project for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.” As Hemingway notes, the “politically liberal advocacy group [has been] funded by progressive powerhouse foundations such as George Soros’ Open Society Foundations.” Epps-Johnson was joined in launching CTCL by fellow NOI staffers Whitney May and Donny Bridges. 

Even accomplice media like The New York Times acknowledged the obvious concerns about partisan players being involved in election administration. 

“The prospect of election administrators tapping large pools of private money has raised new legal and political questions. That is partly because it is unusual for elections to be subsidized by nongovernment funding at this level, but also because most of the cash is coming from nonprofit groups that have liberal ties,” the newspaper reported a little more than a month before the 2020 presidential election. 

In 2020, CTCL provided more than $10.3 million in so-called “safe elections grants” to nearly 200 Wisconsin local governments. But the brunt of the money — a whopping almost 86 percent — went to the “Wisconsin Five” cities, according to a report from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. The cities are bastions of Democrat voters. 

“Areas of the state that received grants saw statistically significant increases in turnout for Democrats. Increases in turnout were not seen for Donald Trump,” WILL concluded.

As The Federalist has reported, CTCL’s web of leftist activists and outright partisan players were embedded in local elections offices. In Green Bay, a longtime Democrat operative was seeking to “cure” or correct absentee ballots and was given a key to the room where absentee ballot boxes were stored. 

Racine received nearly $1.7 million in CTCL grants in multiple installments, according to the lawsuit. The city approved and purchased the mobile voting van for $222,045, according to city documents. 

‘Degrading the Very Foundation of Free Government’

In late 2021, the Racine Common Council approved 158 “alternative absentee voting locations” to be used in the 2022 elections. City Clerk Tara McMenamin selected 22 of the approved sites for Wisconsin’s 2022 primary election including “community centers, schools, a museum, a park, a beach, a mall, [and] a coffee shop” available for absentee voting in three-hour increments, according to the lawsuit. Absentee voting “also took place at City Hall,” where the clerk’s office was located. 

But elections officials didn’t use the actual sites. Instead they drove their “Mobile Election Unit” to the locations and “parked nearby.” Voting took place in the van. 

WILL first filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Elections Commission. WEC’s controversial administrator Meagan Wolfe, who has refused to step down after the Republican-led state Senate voted to oust her, dismissed the complaint. A move to impeach the administrator has stalled thanks to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Racine-area Republican who helped create the deeply flawed Elections Commission run by bureaucrats with a history of violating Wisconsin election law. 

WILL filed the lawsuit in late 2022 asking the court for a declaratory judgment and a reversal of WEC’s decision to dismiss the original complaint. After a lengthy court battle, Gasiorkiewicz last week ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and against the Racine city clerk and her leftist intervenors. Citing a recent election integrity case decided by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the judge wrote that the law must be followed as it is written. In this case, the city did not follow the law when it rolled out its mobile voting van. 

“Election outcomes obtained by unlawful procedures corrupt the the institution of voting, degrading the very foundation of free government,” Gasiorkiewicz wrote in his ruling, citing Clark v. Quick. “Unlawful votes do not dilute lawful votes so much as they pollute them, which in turn pollutes the integrity of the results.” 

The judge reversed the Elections Commission’s determination allowing for the use of mobile election units, noting WEC’s decision was not in “conformity with the elections laws of the State.” 

“Wisconsin voters should know that their elections are secure, and that election administration does not favor one political party over another. This decision does just that,” said Lucas Vebber, WILL deputy counsel. 

Racine city attorneys were reportedly reviewing the decision after it was handed down. The ruling ultimately could be tested at the state Supreme Court, where left-leaning justices hold a slim 4-3 majority. 

Left-wing activists such as the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans‘s Marlene Ott, whose organization was an intervenor in the case and has been described by Influence Watch as a labor-union sponsored advocacy group claiming to represent the interests of senior citizens, were unhappy with the ruling. Repeating Democrat talking points, Ott called the lawsuit a “blatant attempt to make it even more difficult for older voters in Wisconsin to cast a ballot.”

U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, a Wisconsin Republican who represents Racine as part of the state’s 1st congressional district, called the ruling “a win for election integrity.” As chairman of the Committee on House Administration, Steil has led a series of election integrity bills. 

“I’m committed to increasing voters’ confidence and stopping any attempts to weaponize election administration rules to tilt the scales in favor of any candidate or political party,” Steil said. ”The Racine mobile van was a blatant, partisan attempt to use Zuckerbucks to increase Democratic voter turnout. I applaud Judge Gasiorkiewicz’s decision.”

In his ruling, Gasiorkiewicz wrote that he is “not expressing an opinion regarding the efficacy of the use of mobile vans to further the popular use of in-person absentee balloting.” 

“This ruling stands for the proposition that such determinations are for the legislature to direct and cannot be a novel creation of executive branch officials,” the judge wrote. 

Not Just a Wisconsin Problem

Wisconsin isn’t the only swing state to use mobile voting vehicles for targeted get-out-the-vote efforts that benefit Democrats.

Fulton County, Georgia, home of disastrous election administration in the 2020 elections, spent three quarters of a million dollars on mobile voting units — weeks before the 2020 presidential election. 

“The RV size Mobile Units are large enough to each have 8 to 10 voting stations. The new state-of-the-art, fully accessible bus creates … a simple, secure voting experience for voters of all ages and voters with disabilities,” the county boasted. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution gushed, “There’s even a small air-conditioning unit.” 

Georgia lawmakers subsequently passed sweeping election reforms, including prohibiting the use of the vehicles, with the exception of a governor-declared state of emergency. The full bill was signed into law. 

Georgia received $45 million in Zuckbucks, “among the most in the nation,” according to a report by the Foundation for Government Accountability. About $31 million of the funds went to the 2020 general election, and $14.5 million to Georgia’s Senate runoff. Fulton County took in $6.3 million.  

While elections officials there insist the vehicles are all about expanding access for voters in underserved communities, election integrity experts assert leftist-led cities are always playing a numbers game. 

“It’s not a question of access, it’s a question of turnout,” said Adam Gibbs, communications director for the Foundation for Government Accountability. 

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