By James Pindell Globe Staff,Updated September 15, 2020, 7:00 p.m.
Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, returned applause for attendees during a campaign stop in Wauwatosa, Wis., last week.KRISTON JAE BETHEL/NYT
One of the most important developments in the 2020 presidential race took place on Monday. Few noticed it.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the Green Party will not appear on the state’s general election ballot, for largely technical reasons — a Green Party error.
But while the rationale is irrelevant, the result is not: the conservative-leaning top court in Wisconsin delivered what might be a huge boon to Joe Biden and Democrats in the election, which is less than 50 days away.
Both Biden and President Trump’s campaigns view taking Wisconsin as vital in their paths to winning the election.
In 2016, Trump won the state and a key to that victory may have been the role that third parties like the Green Party played. That year the Green Party’s presidential candidate, Jill Stein, received roughly 31,000 votes, more than Trump’s margin of victory over Clinton.
The court’s ruling upholds an earlier decision by the Wisconsin Elections Commission to not allow the party on the ballot because its signature petitions listed two different addresses for its vice presidential nominee, Angela Walker, who just happens to live in Wisconsin.
“We were screwed,” said Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins in a statement.
The court didn’t really get into the substance of the address issue, but mainly concluded that the Green Party took too long to appeal. Early voting starts this week and over a million of the state’s 3.4 million registered voters have requested a ballot by mail.
Had the high court allowed the Green Party on the ballot, it would have left election officials scrambling and some said it would have cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But the Green Party nominees saw it differently.
“Our campaign rejects the idea that we should be punished for what the court majority considers an untimely legal response,” said Walker, the vice presidential candidate, in the statement. “Unlike the two major parties, it takes time for us to find legal representation, formulate a response and file documents.”
The decision to prevent the Green Party from getting ballot access in Wisconsin doesn’t bode well for Kanye West, an independent candidate, who hoped to challenge a similar ruling from the state election commission that didn’t let him on the ballot, since his signatures were presented roughly a minute after the deadline.
After all, adding West’s name would also require new ballots, the first batch of which are supposed to be mailed out in Wisconsin on Thursday. Republican lawyers and activists had been helping both the Green Party and West in Wisconsin potentially under the theory that their presence on the ballot would siphon off votes from Biden in the critical swing state.
Over the weekend, the New York Times and Siena College released a Wisconsin poll showing Biden with a 48 percent to 43 percent edge over Trump.
If Biden wins all the states Clinton won in 2016 and flips Wisconsin, his path to the presidency becomes much clearer. For example, he would only need to additionally flip Florida to win.
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