Election Restrictions in Wisconsin Prompt Suit

     MADISON, Wis. (CN) – Wisconsin Republicans are on a mission to disenfranchise Democratic voters, a handful of activists and political groups claim in federal court.
     The May 29 complaint against all eight members of the state’s election-oversight authority, the Government Accountability Board, takes aim at a series of Republican-backed changes to voting procedure.
     “This lawsuit concerns the most fundamental of rights guaranteed citizens in our representative democracy – the right to vote,” lead plaintiff One Wisconsin Institute says. “That right has been under attack in Wisconsin since Republicans gained control of the governor’s office and both houses of the State Legislature in the 2010 election.”
     By reducing early voting, restricting registration and requiring photo identification, among other things, the new measures are designed to curtail votes among “African-American, Latino, young and/or Democratic” Wisconsinites, as well as the poor, according to the 55-page complaint.
     Wisconsin was not conducive to widespread voting even before these new requirements, and large cities disproportionately occupied by people of color faced the toughest restrictions until those were federally overturned, the plaintiffs, joined by Citizen Action of Wisconsin and six Democrats, claim.
     They note that it took a 2012 directive from the U.S. Justice Department for Wisconsin to start providing ballots in Spanish.
     The subject laws began with Act 23, which imposed the voter ID requirement in addition to reducing the early voting period from 30 to 12 days, increasing the state-residency requirement from 10 to 28 days and eliminating the Government Accountability Board’s authority to appoint statewide registration deputies, according to the complaint.
     The U.S. Supreme Court recently denied review of a challenge to the voter ID requirement after a tumultuous lead-up to the fall 2014 election.
     President Barack Obama’s election to a second term in 2012 really put the Republicans on the warpath with voting restrictions, the plaintiffs say, highlighting the elimination of weekend and evening early voting in “Democratic strongholds” Madison and Milwaukee.
     “Prior to this change, much of Wisconsin’s weekend early voting activity took place in Milwaukee and Madison, where a disproportionate percentage of Wisconsin’s minority, young, and Democratic voters reside,” the complaint states.
     Fears of the supposed fraud these measures are designed to abate are unfounded, the plaintiffs continue.
     “There is no material amount of voter-impersonation fraud, and, upon information and belief, the voter ID law has not increased and will not increase confidence in Wisconsin’s election process,” according to the complaint. “Thus, any benefits from the voter ID law are clearly outweighed by the burdens that the law imposes on voters generally and on specific classes of voters.”
     The complaint charges the Government Accountability Board’s members with violating the federal Voting Rights Act by discriminating based on age and race and imposing an undue burden on voters.
     The complaint also names “partisan fencing” and disparate treatment of voters without a rational basis among the six counts.
     No hearings are scheduled in the case, which has been assigned to U.S. District Judge James Peterson.
     The plaintiffs are represented by Joshua Kaul with Perkins Coie.

%d bloggers like this: