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Lawsuit over Democracy in the Park ends with no decision
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Lawsuit over Democracy in the Park ends with no decision

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Democracy in the Park

A judge ruled Friday that he could not rule in a lawsuit seeking to declare the city's Democracy in the Park event to be legal and valid because there was no disagreement between the two sides over the issue.

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.

The group of voters filed the lawsuit on Sept. 30 after state GOP lawmakers, in a cease-and-desist letter, threatened legal action over the two-time event, saying that the event is illegal. But no lawsuit challenging the event has been filed, and Republican lawmakers did not seek to become adverse parties in the lawsuit filed by the voter group.

The event, held Sept. 26 and Oct. 3, was an opportunity for absentee voters to safely drop off their completed ballots with election officials at any of Madison’s 206 city parks. In its first weekend, nearly 11,000 ballots were collected.

In a brief ruling, Circuit Judge Mario White wrote he wasn’t ruling on the merits of the lawsuit but had to determine whether the lawsuit presented an issue on which he could rule. He said none exists because there is no controversy between the voter group and the Board of Canvassers.

“The defendants have not taken any action in opposition to the plaintiffs,” White wrote. “No brief opposing the plaintiffs’ motion was filed. No argument contrary to the plaintiffs’ argument was provided.”

The attorney for the Board of Canvassers, City Attorney Michael Haas, wrote to the court that absentee ballots returned during Democracy in the Park events will be processed as valid, White noted.

“Plaintiffs also contend the uncertainty created by the (GOP legislators’) letter creates a justiciable claim,” White wrote. “The Board of Canvassers did not author the letter, however. Both parties in this action are aligned at this stage and therefore not adverse.”

Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe said earlier this month that holding the event did not appear to break any laws.

Douglas Poland, a lawyer for the voter group, said he had no comment at this time, while the group decides how to proceed.

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