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MADISON – Conservatives hope to prevent Wisconsin cities from using donations to help run future elections, but they aren’t seeking to overturn Joe Biden’s narrow win in the state last year.

The Wisconsin Voter Alliance and others have unsuccessfully sued three times over $6.3 million in grants the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life gave to the state’s five largest cities last year.

Now, the group is mounting similar challenges before the state Elections Commission.

The alliance’s attorney, Erick Kaardal, said the effort is aimed at making sure cities don’t accept similar grants in the future. The new complaints are not an attempt to reverse the results and retroactively hand the state’s 10 electoral votes to former President Donald Trump, he said.

“No one is saying that the election result isn’t done. Jan. 6 is done and Congress took the count and the president’s selected,” he said, referring to the day Congress accepted Biden’s win after a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Kaardal in recent weeks filed his complaints with the bipartisan Elections Commission against the five cities — Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine.

RELATED: Republicans focus on election grants to five cities that favor Democrats, but more than 200 Wisconsin communities got funds

On contentious issues, the commission sometimes breaks down 3-3 on party lines. Kaardal said he didn’t expect that to happen with his complaints

“Election integrity in some of these subject matters brings people together,” he said. “I think they’ll take a good look at it. Maybe I lose 0-6, maybe I win 6-0, but I don’t think it’s going to be 3-3.”

Whoever loses before the Elections Commission can appeal the decision to circuit court. Kaardal said he would do so if he loses.

That could result in five cases going to five separate courts — and judges ruling in conflicting ways. If that happened, appeals courts or the state Supreme Court would have to resolve the matter.

Past lawsuits have gone nowhere. Kaardal lost earlier cases before the state Supreme Court, a federal judge in Green Bay and a federal judge in Washington, D.C.

Kaardal said he believed his latest complaints were more likely to gain traction because since he lost those cases he has obtained more documents from the cities. His complaints argue state law doesn’t allow cities to accept grants from nonprofit groups to help run their elections.

The Center for Tech and Civic Life gave money to election agencies around the country using hundreds of millions of dollars donated by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

More than 200 communities in Wisconsin received grants, with the largest ones going to populous cities that are dominated by Democratic voters.

Michael Haas, the city attorney for Madison, said he has not seen the latest complaint but will file a response with the commission when he receives it. 

“There isn’t any statute that prohibits municipalities from accepting private grants to help with the administration of elections,” Haas said.

Haas said the city’s voting equipment, ballots and voter registration data were secure. He noted a recount requested by Trump resulted in minimal changes in vote totals in Dane County.

“All of those security issues could have been brought up and litigated at that time,” he said.

Kaardal headlined a Tuesday rally at the state Capitol to promote his efforts. A few dozen people attended, including one who waved a Trump flag and another who held a homemade “audit the election” sign.

“We’re concerned about an accurate count,” Kaardal said at the rally.

Officials from the cities and Democrats have said the grants were appropriate. Republican Rep. Shae Sortwell of Two Rivers said they wouldn’t feel that way if conservative groups bankrolled election administration in Republican areas.

“We need to acknowledge that this is so much bigger than one single election,” Sortwell said. “We need to resolve this and make sure that in 2022 … that we don’t have third parties changing our system.”

Republicans are promoting legislation that would prevent cities from receiving private election grants in the future. The Senate and Assembly have passed different versions of that legislation and need to reach an agreement on it before they could forward it to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

Evers is expected to veto the legislation if it gets to him.

Contact Patrick Marley at patrick.marley@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.

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