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Trump operatives drop political “SLAPP” lawsuit targeting Wisconsin ballots just before court hearing

Three Wisconsin voters have dropped a federal lawsuit that sought to throw out votes in three heavily Democratic counties.

According to court records, the plaintiffs requested a voluntary dismissal of the case ahead of a scheduled hearing for Monday, November 16.

The lawsuit was filed last week in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, based in Green Bay. It relied on allegations of voter fraud from multiple anonymous sources and sought to throw out votes in Dane, Milwaukee, and Menominee counties. All three of those counties favored President-elect Joe Biden over President Donald Trump.

The lawsuit was similar to others filed across the country by allies of Trump in the wake of Election Day. It argued an influx of absentee ballots compromised the integrity of the election and made unspecified allegations about voter fraud.

A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit intended to intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. In the typical SLAPP, the plaintiff does not normally expect to win the lawsuit.

For years, election officials and experts on voting have argued voter fraud is rare. A recent review by Wisconsin Public Radio found clerks flagged just 238 possible cases of fraud out of more than 12 million votes cast over the past four years.

A coalition of Trump administration officials and election officials from across the country recently put out a statement saying the 2020 presidential election was “the most secure in American history.”

The Wisconsin case was filed by Door County resident Michael Langenhorst, Brown County resident Michael LeMay and Oconto County resident Stephen Fifrick. Their attorneys included James Bopp, who has a long history of working for conservative groups and causes.

According to unofficial election results reported by county clerks, Biden won Wisconsin by fewer than 21,000 votes. He defeated Trump in Dane County by a margin of more than 181,000 votes, in Milwaukee County by a margin of nearly 183,000 and in Menominee County by a margin of about 1,000 votes.

A county canvass, during which county officials double-check election results and verify processes for integrity, must be completed by tomorrow. After the canvass is completed, the Trump campaign has until 5:00 p.m. the next day to request a recount, which it has said it plans to do.

In 2016, Green Party candidate Jill Stein requested a recount of the presidential election in Wisconsin, a process that took 10 days and cost approximately $2 million. The recount resulted in a net gain of about 131 votes for Trump, who won the state by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016.

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