Judge Approves Leftist Voter Drives at WI College

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The University of Wisconsin-Parkside is one of numerous taxpayer-funded institutions where leftist groups are driving a targeted get-out-the-vote (GOTV) effort to assist Democrats. Milwaukee Administrative Law Judge Eric Defort has expressed no objections to this initiative.

In a three-page ruling issued Monday, Defort recommended that the Wisconsin Elections Commission support the university in response to a complaint filed by election integrity advocate Ron Heuer and the Wisconsin Voter Alliance (WVA). The complaint contends that the Kenosha university is violating the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) by conducting university-sponsored student GOTV and voter registration drives.

The WVA asserts that the voter act preempts government-sponsored GOTV and voter registration drives, a stance corroborated by opinions from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The complaint further alleges that voter information from the state’s voter system is being used discriminatorily to aid the campus GOTV effort at UW-Parkside and other places. It claims that the university collaborated with the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) in a public-private exchange of student data to support Parkside’s engagement in government-sponsored student GOTV and voter registration drives.

Plaintiffs argue that this initiative is intended to mobilize a traditionally Democrat-leaning demographic using state resources.

UW-Parkside officials contend that they have not engaged in discriminatory voter registration practices and that the campus serves as a site where GOTV efforts are conducted by left-wing activists. The administrative law judge concurred.

“Moreover, UW-Parkside submitted an affidavit attached to its pleadings which asserts that its activities consist of privately funded student-ambassadors working from a booth and providing any student that stops by that booth with the State’s website address ‘myvote.wi.gov‘ so that the student can look themselves up to determine whether or not they are registered to vote,” Defort stated in his recommendation to the state elections commission.

Voting Ambassadors of the Left

An affidavit from Scott Menke, the university’s interim associate chancellor, insists that the institution did not directly or indirectly receive HAVA funds. Instead, the university outsources GOTV efforts to the Andrew Goodman Foundation’s Goodman Ambassadors, who purportedly “engage in non-partisan voter education.”

“These ambassadors use private funding for their activities. They teach other students about the importance of voting,” UW-Parkside stated in response to the complaint.

The Goodman Ambassadors are part of the leftist, nonpartisan-in-name-only Andrew Goodman Foundation, which, according to InfluenceWatch, “runs the Vote Everywhere program, which promotes student voting on university campuses by training a network of students (known as ambassadors) who register voters.”

According to the administrative law judge, there’s nothing improper occurring.

“I find that the act of sharing a website address so a person can verify whether they are registered to vote is plainly not implicated by the language of the statute because that does not constitute the implementation of a voter registration list,” Defort wrote. “Therefore, under the undisputed material facts, the Plaintiff’s claim cannot prevail against UW-Parkside’s motion – as a matter of law. Accordingly, UW-Parkside’s motion should be granted.”

Missing the Point

Erick Kaardal, attorney for the Wisconsin Voter Alliance, argued that the administrative law judge failed to address the core issue — that “state agencies” are also prohibited from discriminatory voter outreach by federal law. Since UW-Parkside is an agency of the state’s higher education system, targeting students for GOTV and voter registration drives while excluding non-students is against the law, the complaint charges.

The university’s 2022 “Action Plan” outlined as one of its goals to “increase the number of students who register and vote in the 2022 Midterm Election by 15% over the previous midterms.”

Additionally, the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement has accessed student voter information, as well as publicly available voting files, to compile reports on student voting rates at UW-Parkside. Using student voting data from the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s statewide voter registration database in a targeted GOTV campaign is a violation of HAVA law, the complaint alleges.

‘Absurdly Discriminatory’

Attorneys for the Wisconsin Voter Alliance plan to file objections to the administrative law judge’s ruling and present their case before the Wisconsin Elections Commission next month.

“We disagree that the federal law allows elite Wisconsin universities to run student-targeted get-out-the-vote campaigns while students at non-elite universities and technical colleges get nothing,” Kaardal said.

As previously reported, the complaint could have significant implications for the many colleges and universities that, like UW-Parkside, collaborate with leftist groups to boost voter turnout among students. Civic Nation’s ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge is one such entity attempting to engage millions of left-leaning voters at higher education institutions across Wisconsin.

“It’s really an absurdly discriminatory, elite university-targeted GOTV campaign Wisconsin has — violating the bipartisan Help American Vote Act,” Kaardal said.

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