MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Election officials said Tuesday that they scrapped their plans to use the Milwaukee Bucks and Brewers' stadiums as early voting sites in the presidential battleground state of Wisconsin.
Milwaukee's election commission had planned to use Fiserv Forum and Miller Park between Oct. 20 and Nov. 1 as sites where people could have voted early in-person or returned absentee ballots they received by mail. The commission developed the plan in an effort to provide safe voting sites during the coronavirus pandemic.
But the commission's executive director, Claire Woodall-Vogg, said Tuesday that the plans were shelved because a recent court ruling could open the door to legal challenges.
“We want residents of Milwaukee to feel complete and unwavering confidence that their ballot will be counted in the election and this action reflects that commitment,” she said in a statement. It's unclear which court ruling Woodall-Vogg was referring to.
Asked for specifics on the ruling in an email, she responded instead by pointing to a memo the Wisconsin Elections Commission released Monday warning that under state law, all early voting sites had to have been designated by June 12. The plan to host early voting at Fiserv and Miller Park was implemented on Sept. 1, Woodall-Vogg said.
The commission said it has been receiving questions from clerks throughout Wisconsin about the possibility of designating additional in—person early voting sites as the election approaches.
The state Republican Party warned last week that allowing Bucks and Brewers players and mascots at the events would amount to illegal electioneering. Party Chairman Andrew Hitt cited a state law that defines illegal electioneering as “any activity which is intended to influence voting at an election.”
Woodall-Vogg said that letter played no role in the decision to cancel the events.
NBA players have been pushing to allow voting in their arenas since a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot a Black man named Jacob Blake in the back seven times on Aug. 23, leaving him partially paralyzed. Many within the league of primarily Black players say minorities living in inner cities need a place to vote safely. Atlanta, Detroit, Charlotte, Sacramento, New York, Dallas and Utah all agreed to such plans.
“While we were excited to welcome voters to Fiserv Forum to cast their ballots in a safe and accessible way, we remain just as committed to encouraging and educating people to vote and making our voices heard in this election,” the Bucks said in a statement.
Brewers officials declined to comment.
Republicans across the country have been fighting attempts to expand voting. An attorney representing Wisconsin's GOP legislators sent a letter to the city clerk in Madison last month warning her to stop collecting absentee ballots in city parks and suggesting that the ballots could be invalidated. The city went ahead with the collections anyway.
Wisconsin is expected to be a pivotal state in November after President Donald Trump won it by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016. Milwaukee and Madison are Democratic strongholds and anything that could make it more difficult to cast a ballot or invalidate ballots could have huge ramifications.
Woodall-Vogg noted that the city is still offering 13 in-person early voting locations spread out across the city.
“We are doing everything within our ability to make sure every person in this city has a fair chance to cast a ballot and regret we are not able to pursue the unique opportunity of integrating these two well-known locations,” Mayor Tom Barrett said, referring to Fiserv Form and Miller Park.
Associated Press writer Steve Megargee in Green Bay contributed to this report.
AP’s Advance Voting guide brings you the facts about voting early, by mail or absentee from each state: https://interactives.ap.org/advance-voting-2020/