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Judge delays decision on collecting ballots in Madison parks

Judge delays decision on collecting ballots in Madison parks

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Democracy in the Park

Voters turn in their absentee ballots last Saturday to poll workers stationed in James Madison Park. Democracy in the Park will take place again from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in all city parks. 

A Dane County judge decided Friday to hold off on declaring whether Madison officials can legally collect absentee ballots in city parks.

The city deployed poll workers to every city park on Sept. 26 to collect ballots. They took in about 10,800 ballots. The city plans a similar event from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in all Madison parks.

An attorney representing Republican legislators has warned the city that such events are illegal, raising questions about whether the GOP will sue to invalidate ballots collected in the parks.

President Donald Trump won Wisconsin by less than 23,000 votes in 2016. Canceling out thousands of ballots from liberal-leaning Madison would deal a huge blow to Democrats working to deliver the state for Joe Biden.

Five Madison voters filed a lawsuit on Wednesday seeking a judicial declaration that collecting ballots in parks is legal.

But Judge Mario White said during a hearing Friday that he wasn’t sure he has authority to rule in the case.

He questioned whether any controversy exists since the only parties to the suit are the five voters and the city’s board of canvassers. Both parities appear to be on the same side since the City Attorney Michael Haas has said he believes the parks program is legal, White said.

He asked the voters’ attorneys and Haas to file briefs on judicial authority in such a situation by Oct. 9.

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Related to this story

A Dane County judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit that sought a judgment protecting the city of Madison’s Democracy in the Park event, writing that he has nothing to rule on because a group of local voters and the city Board of Canvassers don’t disagree about the event’s legality.

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