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Federal Judge in Wisconsin Deals Trump Another Court Defeat

A federal judge in Milwaukee on Saturday tossed out President Trump’s latest effort to overturn the election results in Wisconsin, dismissing the case and ruling that it had failed “as a matter of law and fact.”

In a strongly worded decision, Judge Brett H. Ludwig, a Trump appointee who took his post only three months ago, shot down one of the president’s last remaining attempts to alter the results of a statewide race. The decision came just one day after the Supreme Court denied an audacious move by the state of Texas to contest the election outcomes in Wisconsin and three other battleground states.

Judge Ludwig’s ruling was especially significant because after the Supreme Court’s terse decision Friday night, Mr. Trump complained that courts around the country have thrown out dozens of his lawsuits based on technicalities, and have not given him a chance to fully present his legal arguments.

Judge Ludwig, however, held a daylong hearing on Thursday and still found that Mr. Trump’s claims were lacking. He dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning Mr. Trump cannot refile it in the same court.

“This court has allowed the plaintiff the chance to make his case,” Judge Ludwig wrote, “and he has lost on the merits.”

The suit in Milwaukee in many ways echoed the petition filed by Texas, which was backed by 17 Republican attorneys general and more than 100 Republican members of the House of Representatives.

Unlike other legal challenges by the president, the suit in Milwaukee did not allege that voting fraud took place in Wisconsin. Rather, it accused a group of state and local election officials of violating state law by expanding the manner in which absentee ballots were received and processed this year in an unusual election that took place during a pandemic.

Mr. Trump and his Republican supporters have now lost more than 50 legal challenges to the election, many because judges have found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the cases or because their claims were moot after states had certified their vote counts.

But breaking with his colleagues on the bench, Judge Ludwig found that Mr. Trump did in fact have standing to contest how Wisconsin officials conducted their election. He also ruled that even though Wisconsin had certified its vote last month, the lawsuit was not moot because the final determination of the presidential race will not take place until Jan. 6, when Congress meets to count votes from the Electoral College.

In his ruling, Judge Ludwig wrote that Wisconsin’s election officials had followed state law, which clearly says that the state’s electors should be chosen by a popular vote. Even though they instituted changes like allowing drop boxes for absentee ballots and loosening restrictions for certifying ballots, the moves were not illegal, Judge Ludwig wrote, and officials used acceptable ways to implement the law.

Judge Ludwig also noted that the Trump campaign was aware of these changes months before they were put in place and should have sought to challenge them before the election, not after Mr. Trump lost.

“This is an extraordinary case,” Judge Ludwig wrote. “A sitting president who did not prevail in his bid for re-election has asked for federal court help in setting aside the popular vote based on disputed election administration issues he plainly could have raised before the vote occurred.”

The ruling concluded: “In his reply brief, plaintiff ‘asks that the Rule of Law be followed.’ It has been.”

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