Wisconsin Election Integrity Challenged by Progressive Judge’s Decision on Ballot ‘Curing’

A Madison-based judge with left-leaning views, Judge Ryan Nilsestuen, recently issued a significant decision impacting election procedures in Wisconsin, a crucial state in the upcoming presidential election.

Contrary to a conservative ruling in Waukesha County Circuit Court in 2022, Nilsestuen’s decision supports the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, allowing local officials to rectify absentee ballots with missing or incorrect details.

This decision conflicts with the earlier judgment by Judge Michael J. Aprahamian, who prohibited the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) from advising local officials to amend information on absentee ballot certifications.

Nilsestuen’s more progressive stance aligns with the League of Women Voters, arguing that rejecting absentee ballots for minor errors violates the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

He contends that the Witness Address Requirement shouldn’t determine a voter’s eligibility, asserting that dismissing ballots for minor Witness Address mistakes directly violates federal law.

While state election law mandates signatures and addresses from witnesses on absentee ballots, it doesn’t empower officials to modify absentee ballot certificates. Aprahamian’s prior ruling emphasized that the Wisconsin Elections Commission lacked authority to instruct clerks to cure ballots.

During the 2020 presidential elections, many questioned ballots had significant omissions or errors, raising valid concerns about voter integrity. Activists leveraging the Covid pandemic as a “crisis” advocated for expanded “voting rights” during the fiercely contested election in Wisconsin, where Joe Biden narrowly defeated Donald Trump.

Cities like Madison witnessed extensive ballot-harvesting efforts, with the election commission allowing widespread use of absentee ballot drop boxes, in contrast to state election law. The Wisconsin Supreme Court later invalidated the commission’s guidance on drop boxes.

Biden secured victory in Wisconsin with a margin of around 20,000 votes among the 3.2 million cast, claiming the state’s 10 electoral votes with less than a 1% margin.

A 2021 report by The Federalist revealed that a Democratic Party operative linked to the National Vote at Home Institute closely collaborated with election officials in Wisconsin’s major Democratic-leaning cities. Emails exposed Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein’s communication with Green Bay’s election officials, offering assistance in “curing” absentee ballots lacking signatures or witness addresses.

Although the Wisconsin Elections Commission permitted clerks to rectify absentee ballot errors, it did not authorize former Democratic Party operatives to intervene in this manner. Spitzer-Rubenstein’s involvement was part of funding initiatives totaling hundreds of millions of dollars for “safe elections” grants, supported by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his spouse.

Legal disputes over correcting ballot information have arisen in crucial battleground states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania.

The League of Women Voters in Wisconsin celebrated their triumph, though an appeal appears likely.

“All voters deserve to have their votes counted regardless of whether they vote in person or absentee,” said Debra Cronmiller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, in a statement. “Small errors or omissions on the absentee certificate envelope should not prevent voters from exercising their constitutional rights.”

The League of Women Voters in the state is backed by well-funded progressive legal firms, including the Fair Elections Center and Law Forward. Despite being often presented as a nonpartisan advocate for litigation and election policies, the Fair Elections Center has roots in the center-left New Venture Fund, as reported by Influence Watch.

Law Forward, a coalition of Wisconsin-based law firms and advocacy groups, actively promotes a leftist agenda on “voting rights” and frequently engages in legal battles targeting election integrity.

Judge Nilsestuen, presiding in Dane County, previously served as legal counsel to Governor Evers, advising on contentious state lockdown measures during the Covid period and various expansive government initiatives. His appointment to the Dane County Circuit Court Branch 10 occurred just over a year ago, following his tenure advising the governor.

State Senator Dan Knodl, chair of the Senate’s elections committee, highlighted Nilsestuen’s past legal opinions supporting Governor Evers’ unsuccessful attempts to postpone the 2020 spring and presidential primary elections due to the Covid “health emergency.”

Knodl emphasized that the conflicting circuit court opinions indicate clear political patronage, foreseeing the likelihood of appeals court intervention. He highlighted litigation as a prevalent tactic for the left since the conservative shift in 2010, when Republicans gained control of the Wisconsin Legislature and governorship under then-Governor Scott Walker, leading to substantial government reforms, including voter integrity measures like photo ID requirements.

With Governor Evers vetoing several Republican-backed election reform bills and the left-leaning tilt in the Wisconsin Supreme Court from the previous year, concerns about election integrity are heightened in this critical election year.

“It puts into question what kind of trust and faith you have in elections,” the senator said.