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Judge Sees Nothing Wrong With Leftist Voter Drives On Wisconsin College Campus

It’s all in an effort to reach a traditionally faithful bloc of Democrat voters, while using state resources, the plaintiffs argue.

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The University of Wisconsin-Parkside is one of hundreds of taxpayer-funded institutions of higher education where leftist groups are pushing a targeted get-out-the-vote effort to help Democrats win. And Milwaukee Administrative Law Judge Eric Defort is just fine with that. 

In a three-page decision released Monday, Defort summarily recommends that the Wisconsin Elections Commission side with the university in a complaint filed by election integrity advocate Ron Heuer and the Wisconsin Voter Alliance. The complaint alleges the Kenosha university is violating the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) “by engaging in university-sponsored student get-out-the-vote and voter registration drives.”

WVA argues that the voter act preempts government-sponsored GOTV and voter registration drives, affirmed by opinions from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. And the complaint alleges voter information pulled from the state’s voter information system is discriminatorily being used to assist in the campus GOTV effort — at UW-Parkside and elsewhere. As the complaint states, the university has worked with the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) “in a public-private exchange of student private data” to support Parkside’s “engagement in government-sponsored student get-out-the-vote and voter registration drives.” 

It’s all in an effort to reach a traditionally faithful bloc of Democrat voters, while using state resources, the plaintiffs argue.

UW-Parkside officials assert that they have not implemented a discriminatory voter registration list, but that the campus is merely the site where the GOTV effort is being conducted — by left-wing activists. The administrative law judge agreed. 

“Moreover, UW-Parkside submitted an affidavit attached to its pleadings which asserts that its activities consist of privately funded student-ambassadors working from a booth and providing any student that stops by that booth with the State’s website address ‘myvote.wi.gov‘ so that the student can look themselves up to determine whether or not they are registered to vote,” Defort wrote in his recommendation to the state elections commission. 

Voting Ambassadors of the Left

An affidavit submitted by Scott Menke, the university’s interim associate chancellor, insists that to his knowledge, the institution did not directly or indirectly receive HAVA funds. Instead, the university farms out GOTV efforts to the Andrew Goodman Foundation’s Goodman Ambassadors, who supposedly “engage in non-partisan voter education.”

“These ambassadors use private funding for their activities. They teach other students about the importance of voting,” UW-Parkside declares in its response to the complaint. 

The Goodman Ambassadors are part of the leftist, nonpartisan-in-name-only Andrew Goodman Foundation, which, according to InfluenceWatch, “runs the Vote Everywhere program, which promotes student voting on university campuses by training a network of students (known as ambassadors) who register voters.”

But there’s nothing to see here, according to the administrative law judge. 

“I find that the act of sharing a website address so a person can verify whether they are registered to vote is plainly not implicated by the language of the statute because that does not constitute the implementation of a voter registration list,” Defort wrote. “Therefore, under the undisputed material facts, the Plaintiff’s claim cannot prevail against UW-Parkside’s motion – as a matter of law. Accordingly, UW-Parkside’s motion should be granted.”

Missing the Point

Erick Kaardal, attorney for the Wisconsin Voter Alliance, said the administrative law judge failed to analyze the core argument, that the “State” barred by federal law from discriminatory voter outreach includes “state agencies.” And since UW-Parkside is very much an agency of the state’s higher education system, discriminating “against non-students” by “targeting … students for its get-out-the-vote and voter registration drives” is against the law, the complaint charges.

The university’s 2022 “Action Plan” stated that one of its goals was to “increase the number of students who register and vote in the 2022 Midterm Election by 15% over the previous midterms.” 

Additionally, the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement has tapped into student voter information, as well as publicly available voting files, to compile reports on student voting rates at UW-Parkside. Mining student voting data from the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s statewide voter registration database in a targeted GOTV campaign violates HAVA law, the complaint alleges. 

‘Absurdly Discriminatory’

Attorneys for the Wisconsin Voter Alliance will be filing objections to the administrative law judge’s ruling and then make their case before the Wisconsin Elections Commission next month. 

“We disagree that the federal law allows elite Wisconsin universities to run student-targeted get-out-the-vote campaigns while students at non-elite universities and technical colleges get nothing,” Kaardal said. 

As The Federalist has reported, the complaint could have far-reaching implications for the hundreds of colleges and universities that, like UW-Parkside, work with leftist groups to boost voting among students. Civic Nation’s ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge is one of the players attempting to tap into millions of statistically left-leaning voters at institutions of higher education across Wisconsin.

“It’s really an absurdly discriminatory, elite university-targeted GOTV campaign Wisconsin has — violating the bipartisan Help American Vote Act,” Kaardal said. 


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