“It Simply Does Not Make Any Sense”: Judge Trashes Election Lawsuit By The Elias Law Firm

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Authored by Jonathan Turley via jonathanturley.org,

The firm of former Clinton campaign general counsel Marc Elias has lost another election case in a spectacular fashion. The Chief Judge of the Western District of Wisconsin, James Peterson (an Obama appointee), did not just reject but ridiculed the Elias Law Group challenge to a witness requirement for absentee voting. Elias have been previously sanctioned in court and accused of lying in the Steele dossier scandal by journalists and others.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson ruled against the lawsuit brought by the Elias Law Group, arguing that the witness requirement violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The state statute under § 6.87(2) describes what the witness must certify. The statute first sets forth in two sentences what the voter must certify on the ballot envelope. The first requirement concerns the voter certifying that he or she meets the requirements for voting generally and for voting absentee in Wisconsin.

The second requirement is certification that the voter followed the process for preparing the absentee ballot. These are the called the “first voter certification” and the “witness certification.”

The witness certification refers to a witness certifying “all of the above,” which is obviously referring to the language on preparing the absentee ballot.

Elias argued that it requires certification of everything that preceded it on the details of the voter’s record etc.

In the court’s opinion, Judge Peterson expresses disbelief at the lunacy of the Elias argument, writing:

“Normally, the court would begin by searching for other textual clues in the statute. But in this case, the most obvious problem with plaintiffs’ interpretation is that it simply does not make any sense.

The court then notes that:

“Under plaintiffs’ interpretation, every witness would have to determine the voter’s age, residence, citizenship, criminal history, whether the voter is unable or unwilling to vote in person, whether the voter has voted at another location or is planning to do so, whether the voter is capable of understanding the objective of the voting process, whether the voter is under a guardianship, and, if so, whether a court has determined that the voter is competent. See Wis. Stat. §§ 6.02 and 6.03. Many witnesses would be unable to independently verify much of the required information. The statute allows any adult U.S. citizen to serve as a witness, suggesting that a wide variety of people should be able to do the job…It makes no sense to interpret § 6.87 in a way that would make compliance virtually impossible.

If plaintiffs’ interpretation were correct, it would mean that countless absentee ballots over decades were invalid because the witness certified that the voter was qualified to vote and met the other requirements in the first voter certification, even though the witness had no basis for such a certification.”

However, it gets even wackier. They argued that a simple witness requirement constituted a type of illegal vouching under the Voting Rights Act. This is a reference to the Jim Crow era when a registered voter had to vouch for a new voter, a system meant to prevent African Americans from voting.

The case adds to a long litany of losses and controversies for Elias. That record includes allegations of lying to reporters and subverting voters.

Elias featured prominently in the filings of Special Counsel John Durham. It was Elias who made the key funding available to Fusion GPS, which in turn enlisted Steele to produce his now discredited dossier on Trump and his campaign.

During the campaign, reporters did ask about the possible connection to the campaign, but Clinton campaign officials denied any involvement. Weeks after the election, journalists discovered that the Clinton campaign hid payments for the Steele dossier as “legal fees” among the $5.6 million paid to Perkins Coie.

New York Times reporter Ken Vogel said at the time that Elias denied involvement in the anti-Trump dossier. When Vogel tried to report the story, he said, Elias “pushed back vigorously, saying ‘You (or your sources) are wrong.’” Times reporter Maggie Haberman declared, “Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year.”

It was not just reporters who asked the Clinton campaign about its role in the Steele dossier. John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, was questioned by Congress and denied categorically any contractual agreement with Fusion GPS. Sitting beside him was Elias, who reportedly said nothing to correct the misleading information given to Congress.

The Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee were ultimately sanctioned by the FEC over the handling of the funding of the dossier through his prior firm.

The Democratic National Committee reportedly later cut ties with Elias.

Elias has been sanctioned in past litigation. Yet, other democrats have continued to hire Elias despite his checkered past. Elias unsuccessfully led efforts to challenge Democratic losses.  Elias also was the subject of intense criticism after a tweet that some have called inherently racist.

Elias was back in the news in another major defeat in Maryland. He filed in support of an abusive gerrymandering of the election districts that a court found violated not only violated Maryland law but the state constitution’s equal protection, free speech and free elections clauses. The court found that the map pushed by Elias “subverts the will of those governed.”

Elias has been accused of making millions from gerrymandering and challenging election victories by Republicans (while condemning such actions by Republicans as “anti-Democratic”). His work for New York redistricting that was ridiculed as not only ignoring the express will of the voters to end such gerrymandering while effectively negating the votes of Republican voters.

Recently, Elias’ name popped up again in the scandal involving David Hogg and accounting irregularities. Hogg is accused of raising millions to support liberal candidates but allegedly spending only $263,000 on such candidates while paying $83,000 to the Elias law firm.

Previously, when allegations of self-dealing and accounting improprieties were raised with regard to Black Lives Matter, the group’s attorney, Elias, immediately stood out for many. Elias resigned from his “key role” with BLM as the scandal exploded.

It is not known if the Elias Law Group will appeal this stinging rebuke or cut its losses.

 

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