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Lawsuit seeks $2.4 million in damages from Wisconsin GOP bogus voters

MADISON, Wis. – Two Wisconsin Democratic voters and one voter sued Republicans on Tuesday who tried to vote for Donald Trump in 2020 despite Joe Biden’s victory in the battleground state.

Their lawsuit filed in Dane County Circuit Court alleges a plot by Trump and his allies to overturn his defeat in the presidential race, calling it “legally baseless because it was repugnant to democracy.” He is seeking up to $2.4 million in damages and barring Republicans from serving as voters again.

Plaintiffs say this is the first such lawsuit in the seven swing states where GOP voters falsely declared Trump the winner and voted for him in December 2020.

“It is essential to be held accountable and to ensure that this does not happen again,” said Jeffrey Mandell, attorney for the plaintiffs. “We have heard over a year since fraudulent voters were met with the excuse that what they did was not wrong, it was absolutely fine. We want a court to make it clear that this is not is not true.”

Republican voters named in the lawsuit who have spoken publicly about what they did have long maintained that they were not trying to change Wisconsin’s outcome. Instead, they said, they were trying to preserve all of their legal options in case a court rules in Trump’s favor.

A Trump campaign official, Stephen Miller, said on Fox News in December 2020 that the GOP electoral slate sent its results to Congress to “ensure that all of our legal avenues remain open.”

The lawsuit names 10 Republican voters and two attorneys who the lawsuit says aided their efforts. The attorneys are Boston-area attorney Kenneth Chesebro and Jim Troupis, who was Trump’s attorney in Wisconsin. The lawsuit cites a memo Chesebro sent to Troupis in November 2020 detailing the voters’ plan.

In that memo, Chesebro wrote that “it may seem odd that voters promised to Trump and (Vice President Mike) Pence could meet and vote” but a fair reading of federal law “suggests that it this is a reasonable course of action.”

Chesebro, when reached by phone and told of the lawsuit, said, “Thank you for letting me know. I’ll check that out.” He then hung up. Troupis did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

Robert Spindell, one of 10 GOP voters and also a member of the state Elections Commission, said he was not surprised a lawsuit was filed and that he stands by to his earlier comments defending his action as keeping all options open for Trump.

Kelly Ruh, another defendant, said she was unaware of the lawsuit and had no immediate comment.

Wisconsin’s bipartisan Elections Commission, working from a state Justice Department analysis that generally accepted that argument, had earlier concluded that Republicans had not broken any election laws. But the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol uprising is also reviewing the actions of GOP voters and has issued subpoenas to at least 20 people who were part of the Republican effort in Arizona. , Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The US Department of Justice is also investigating.

Biden beat Trump in Wisconsin by just under 21,000 votes. That finding withstood Trump-ordered counts in the state’s two largest counties, several federal and state lawsuits, an independent audit and a review by a conservative law firm. An Associated Press investigation into potential cases of voter fraud in battleground states where Trump contested the results found far too little to affect the outcome of the race.

The lawsuit asks that Republican voters and attorneys be fined $2,000 each and pay up to $200,000 each in punitive damages. The lawsuit seeks punitive damages from the plaintiffs. Mel Barnes, a lawyer with Law Forward, said the goal was deterrence, not profit.

“No one joined this lawsuit for personal gain,” she said.

Voters in all seven states signed certificates incorrectly stating that Trump, not Biden, had won their states. They sent these certificates to the National Archives and to Congress, where they were ignored. However, several of Trump’s Republican allies in the House and Senate have used them to justify delaying or blocking certification of the election during the joint session of Congress.

On two of the certificates, from New Mexico and Pennsylvania, Republican voters added a caveat that the certificate was submitted in case they were later recognized as duly elected and qualified voters. This would only have been possible if Trump had won one of dozens of legal challenges he filed in the weeks following the election. Instead, he lost them all.

Wisconsin Republicans gathered on December 14, 2020 at the Madison State Capitol. The state’s 10 Democratic voters, which included lawsuit plaintiffs Khary Penebaker and Mary Arnold, were meeting in the building at the same time. The third plaintiff, Bonnie Joseph, is identified simply as a voter “who opposes the defendants’ unlawful interference” in the Electoral College.

The lawsuit argues that Republicans made unlawful use of public resources when they met on Capitol Hill.

Democratic voters who filed the lawsuit are represented by liberal law firm Law Forward and the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center. It was Law Forward who filed the lawsuit, which was dismissed by the state election commission.

The groups said they have no immediate plans to file similar lawsuits in other swing states.

startribune Gt Itly

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