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City of Madison stands by ‘Democracy in the Park’ despite letter from Republicans

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Michael Haas
City of Madison Attorney Michael Haas speaking at a press conference.

MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison city leaders are standing by their Democracy in the Park ballot collection effort despite assertions from state Republican leaders that votes collected during the event could be challenged in court.

Madison City Attorney Michael Haas called a letter sent to the city clerk from a lawyer on behalf of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, "misinformation."

The letter, shared with members of the media late last week, claims that the Democracy in the Park event violates state law by not offering an approved method of ballot collection.

The event, held last Saturday and scheduled again for this weekend, is put on by the Madison City Clerk's Office and gives voters an opportunity to turn in absentee ballots at 206 city parks.

Poll workers staff the different sites and collect ballots in much the same manner they would inside the clerk's office.

"Given the apparent unlawfulness of the absentee-ballot-collection efforts of your 'Democracy in the Park' campaign, there is a grave risk that all ballots you collect through this campaign will be challenged in court and ultimately invalidated," the letter said.

Haas characterized the letter as "a legal threat hanging out there."

The letter did not say if Republicans in the Legislature would bring a lawsuit against the city for holding the event.

Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe said the event did not break any law.

"The prohibition is on being able to issue any ballots prior to the 14 days before the election, when that in-person absentee period can start" Wolfe said. "We're not aware of anyone who has done that."

Haas enchouraged other municipalities to hold their own events similar to Democracy in the Park noting that it had resulted in the city receiving almost 11,000 absentee ballots.

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JT Cestkowski

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