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Friday, July 29, 2016

 6:09 PM 

Federal judge strikes down several GOP-backed election measures

A federal judge today struck down several GOP-authored election measures, including a 2013 law limiting the times for in-person absentee voting.

Judge James Peterson did not grant plaintiff One Wisconsin Institute’s request to overturn the dozen GOP-backed laws, including voter ID. But he said many elements of those measures are unconstitutional.

His ruling today does not affect the Aug. 9th primaries but is intended to apply to the Nov. 8 general election.

State Department of Justice spokesman Johnny Koremenos said the agency still is reviewing Peterson’s ruling.

“Based on our initial reading of the decision,” Koremenos said in an email, “we plan to appeal it to the Seventh Circuit.”

Peterson, in the 119-page decision, took several shots at the GOP election measures, including his calling the ID petition process the state has set up a “wretched failure.” He declined to throw out the entire voter ID law because a “targeted remedy can cure the constitutional flaws” of that process.

He also cited a previous challenge to Wisconsin’s voter ID law and how a federal court ruled it was similar “in all ways that matter” to Indiana’s law. That law withstood a challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court.

But Peterson wrote there’s “utterly no evidence” that voter fraud is a problem.

“The Wisconsin experience demonstrates that a preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement, which undermine rather than enhance confidence in elections, particularly in minority communities,” he wrote. “To put it bluntly, Wisconsin’s strict version of voter ID law is a cure worse than the disease.”

Peterson overturned limits on early voting such as the elimination of weekend voting, finding that they’ve had a “disparate effect on African Americans and Latinos.”

“I am persuaded that this law was specifically targeted to curtail voting in Milwaukee without any other legitimate purpose,” he wrote. “The legislature’s immediate goal was to achieve a partisan objective, but the means of achieving that objective was to suppress the reliably Democratic vote of Milwaukee’s African Americans.”

One Wisconsin Institute, which filed the lawsuit, hailed Peterson’s ruling. Executive Director Scot Ross said the group “could not be more proud of this victory.”

“We argued Gov. Walker made it harder for Democrats to vote and easier for Republicans to cheat, and the judge agreed,” he said.

But Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the laws “protected the integrity of our elections and people’s right to vote.”

“This is a liberal judge’s attempt to undermine our elections less than four months out. It’s also an obvious attempt to usurp the power of the legislature,” he said. “I’m confident that the laws will be reinstated upon appeal.”

Other provisions Peterson struck down included:

*the requirement that dorm lists used as proof of residence include citizenship information;

*the increase of the durational residency requirement from 10 to 28 days;

*the prohibition on distributing absentee ballots by fax or email;

*and the prohibition on using expired, but otherwise qualifying, student IDs.-- 

By Polo Rocha


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