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United States v. State

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

June 20, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF WISCONSIN; WISCONSIN ELECTIONS COMMISSION; and MEAGAN WOLFE, in her official capacity as the Interim Administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, Defendants.

          CONSENT JUDGMENT AND DECREE

         Plaintiff. United States of America, initiated this action against the State of Wisconsin; the Wisconsin Elections Commission; and Meagan Wolfe, in her official capacity as the Interim Administrator of the Elections Commission (collectively, "Defendants"), to enforce the requirements of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act ("UOCAVA"), 52 U.S.C. §§20301 et seq.

         The United States alleges that Defendants, through Wisconsin laws and election administration procedures, do not provide Wisconsin voters who temporarily reside overseas the protections to which they are entitled under UOCAVA. The United States and Defendants, through their respective counsel, have conferred and agree, that this action should be settled without the delay and expense of litigation. The parties share the goal of ensuring that all of Wisconsin's eligible U.S. citizens are afforded the voting guarantees of UOCAVA. The parties have negotiated in good faith and hereby agree to the entry of this Consent Decree as an appropriate resolution of the UOCAVA claim alleged by the United States, Accordingly, the United States and Defendants stipulate and agree that:

1. For purposes of this agreement, the phrase "temporary overseas voters" is defined to mean Wisconsin voters who "reside[ ] outside the United States, " within the meaning of 52 U.S.C, § 20310(5)(B) and (C), and who intend to return at some point in the future to Wisconsin.
2. The Attorney. General is authorized to enforce the provisions of UOCAVA, 52 U.S.C. § 20307, and brings this action for declaratory and injunctive relief to ensure that Wisconsin's temporary overseas voters will have the protections guaranteed by UOCAVA in Wisconsin's 2018 elections for Federal office and in future elections for Federal office.
3. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 52 U.S.C. § 20307 and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1345 and 2201.
4. Defendant State of Wisconsin (the "State" or "Wisconsin") is covered by UOCAVA and has the responsibility of complying with its requirements. 52 U.S.C. § 20302.
5. Defendant Wisconsin Elections Commission ("Elections Commission") is responsible for administering laws in the Stale regarding elections. Wis.Stat. § 5.05(1).
6. Defendant Meagan Wolfe is the Elections Commission's Interim Administrator and is sued in her official capacity. The Administrator also serves as the State's Chief Election Officer. Wis.Stat. § 5.O5(3g).
7. UOCAVA guarantees absent uniformed services voters and overseas voters (collectively, "UOCAVA voters") the right to "use absentee registration procedures and to vote by absentee ballot in general, special, primary, and runoff elections for Federal office." 52 U.S.C. § 20302(a)(1), The statute requires that states afford a number of specific protections for all UOCAVA voters, including the option to receive their blank absentee ballots by mail or electronically, and the ability to use Federal write-in absentee ballots to vote in Federal elections, 52 U.S.C. § 20302(a).
8. UOCAVA requires stales to establish procedures to transmit blank absentee ballots to UOCAVA voters by mail or electronically in accordance with the transmission method the voters designate. 52 U.S.C. § 20302(a)(7), (f)(1).
9. UOCAVA requires states to permit UOCAVA voters to use the Federal write-in absentee ballot as a back-up measure to vote in elections for Federal office if the voters have made timely application for, and have not received, the absentee ballots from their states. 52 U.S.C. §§ 20302(a)(3), 20303(a).
10. UOCAVA defines an "overseas voter" as (1) an absent uniformed services voter who, by reason of active duty or service is absent from the United States on the date of the election involved; (2) a person who resides outside the United States and is qualified to vote in the last place in which the person was domiciled before leaving the United States; or (3) a person who resides outside the United States and (but for such residence) would be qualified to vote in the last place in which the person was domiciled before leaving the United States. 52 U.S.C. § 20310(5). The federal law does not distinguish between those overseas voters who reside overseas indefinitely and those who reside overseas temporarily and intend to return to the United States. See id.
11. Wisconsin's statute governing federal overseas voting defines an "overseas elector" as "a U.S. citizen who is not disqualified from voting under [Wis. Stat. §] 6.03, who has attained or will attain the age of 1.8 by the date of an election at which the citizen proposes to vote and who does not qualify as a resident of [Wisconsin] under [Wis. Stat. §] 6.10, but who was last domiciled in [Wisconsin] or whose parent was last domiciled in [Wisconsin] immediately prior to the parent's departure from the United States, and who is not registered to vote or voting in any other state, territory or possession." Wis.Stat. § 6.24(1). Under that definition, a person who qualifies as a resident of Wisconsin under Wis, Stat. § 6.10 is not an overseas elector.
12. Wisconsin Stat. §6.10 provides the standards governing residence as ' a qualification for voting in Wisconsin. Under Wis.Stat. § 6.10(1), "[t]he residence of a person is the place where the person's habitation is fixed, without any present intent to move, and to which, when absent, the person intends to return." According to that residency standard, a person who has a fixed habitation in Wisconsin to which, ...

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