Wisconsin's highest court ruled it's too late to add the Green Party candidate for president to the November election ballot, which has already been sent to many voters.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday said changing the ballot now to add the names of candidate Howie Hawkins and his running mate, Angela Walker, could result in a "substantial possibility of confusion" among voters who've already received or even returned the original ballots.
"Ordering new ballots to be printed would be an expensive and time-consuming process that would not allow counties and municipalities to meet the statutory deadlines for delivering and sending ballots," the majority said.
The Green Party ticket could have taken crucial votes from Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden in hotly contested Wisconsin and help President Donald Trump. Biden has a 6.3 percentage point edge over Trump in the state, according to the RealClear Politics average of polls taken since Aug. 29. Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by 1 percentage point over Hillary Clinton, with Green Party candidate Jill Stein getting 1.1% of the vote.
Andrew T. Phillips, the lawyer for the Green Party candidates, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
The state's Elections Commission had found that the Green Party candidates failed to gather enough valid signatures to get on the ballot, prompting the suit.
Judge Rebecca Bradley wrote a dissenting opinion claiming the majority's finding was "nonsense." The court could have ordered the Green Party candidates' certification before any ballots had been mailed to voters, she wrote.
"In dodging its responsibility to uphold the rule of law, the majority ratifies a grave threat to our republic, suppresses the votes of Wisconsin citizens, irreparably impairs the integrity of Wisconsin's elections, and undermines the confidence of American citizens in the outcome of a presidential election," Bradley wrote.
The ruling will ease the threat of delays in vote-by-mail in a key swing state if counties had to re-print ballots to include the Green Party candidate.
In Wisconsin, ballots are supposed to be sent by Sept. 17 to voters who had requested an absentee ballot for the general election. Over 1 million people in Wisconsin had made the request as of Sept. 14, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which is expecting more than 3 million of the state's residents to vote in November.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court had ordered the state's Elections Commission last week not to send out the ballots before it ruled on the lawsuit. The commission indicated on Monday "that hundreds, if not thousands, of absentee ballots have already been mailed to electors."
The majority also held that changing the ballot at this stage would "interfere" in the election and be unfair to candidates who got a faster start.
"Even if we would ultimately determine that the petitioners' claims are meritorious, given their delay in asserting their rights, we would be unable to provide meaningful relief without completely upsetting the election," the court said.
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PHOTO (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194): Howie Hawkins