By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A narrowly divided Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday rejected President Donald Trump’s lawsuit attempting to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in the battleground state, ending Trump’s legal challenges in state court about an hour before the Electoral College was to meet to cast the state’s 10 votes for Biden.
In the 4-3 ruling, the court’s three liberal justices were joined by conservative swing Justice Brian Hagedorn who said three of Trump’s four claims were filed too late and the other was without merit.
The president sought to have more than 221,000 ballots disqualified in Dane and Milwaukee counties, the state’s two most heavily Democratic counties. Those were the only counties where Trump sought a recount, even though he lost statewide by just short of 21,000 votes, a margin of about 0.6%. Hagedorn said the Trump campaign was “not entitled to the relief it seeks.”
Hagedorn used a sports analogy when ruling against Trump, saying he should not have waited until his election loss was announced to raise his complaints.
“Our laws allow the challenge flag to be thrown regarding various aspects of election administration,” Hagedorn wrote. “The challenges raised by the Campaign in this case, however, come long after the last play or even the last game; the Campaign is challenging the rulebook adopted before the season began.”
Trump wanted to disqualify absentee ballots cast early and in-person, saying there wasn’t a proper written request made for the ballots; absentee ballots cast by people who claimed “indefinitely confined” status; absentee ballots collected by poll workers at Madison parks; and absentee ballots where clerks filled in missing information on ballot envelopes.
The court ruled that Trump’s challenge to voters who were indefinitely confined was without merit and that the other claims came too late.
The three dissenting conservative justices, led by Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, said the court should have decided whether votes should have counted in each of the four categories Trump challenged and also clarified the law for future elections.
“A significant portion of the public does not believe that the November 3, 2020, presidential election was fairly conducted,” Roggensack wrote. “Once again, four justices on this court cannot be bothered with addressing what the statutes require to assure that absentee ballots are lawfully cast.”
Liberal justices Rebecca Dallet and Jill Karofsky, who sided with Hagedorn, wrote separately to emphasize that there was no evidence of fraud in Wisconsin’s election.
“Wisconsin voters complied with the election rulebook,” Dallet and Karofksy said. “No penalties were committed and the final score was the result of a free and fair election.”
Trump and his allies have suffered dozens of defeats in Wisconsin and across the country in lawsuits that rely on unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud and election abuse. On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Texas lawsuit that sought to invalidate Biden’s win by throwing out millions of votes in four battleground states, including Wisconsin.
On Saturday, former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a federal case she lost in Wisconsin seeking to order the GOP-controlled Legislature to declare Trump the winner. Powell has also lost similar cases in Georgia and Arizona.
Also on Saturday, while the Supreme Court was holding arguments in Trump’s state case, a federal judge dismissed another Trump lawsuit seeking to overturn his loss in Wisconsin. Trump appealed that ruling.