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Wisconsin’s Voting Laws Still In Flux

A federal judge's ruling has thrown out many parts of Wisconsin's Voter ID and related laws, which will impact the fall presidential election. (CreativaImages/iStockPhoto)
August 3. 2016
A federal judge's ruling has thrown out many parts of Wisconsin's Voter ID and related laws, which will impact the fall presidential election. (CreativaImages/iStockPhoto)

MADISON, Wis. - Once again, another federal judge has ruled that many parts of Wisconsin's new election law are unconstitutional, and voters will have to familiarize themselves with still another set of rules about voting.

The decision on Friday by U.S. District Judge James Peterson said many parts of the state's 2011 law fail to comply with the constitutional requirement that elections be fair and equally open to all qualified voters. Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican leaders of the Legislature were disappointed in the decision and called Peterson a liberal activist. They've vowed to appeal the judge's decision.

However, Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, said it's a huge victory if the judge's ruling stands.

"It would take Wisconsin back to where we were when we had amongst the highest voter turnout in the country, and that's frankly the way it should be," Heck said. "Because what Judge Peterson also said was that this rationale that would prevent voter fraud is not based in fact; it's based on a political calculation."

The judge's ruling restored the early-registration provisions which the law prohibited, and tossed out the limits on in-person absentee voting. The judge ruled those restrictions were unfair to minorities.

Peterson allowed some parts of the photo voter ID law to stand, but eased restrictions on voters seeking to obtain acceptable ID. The judge said he would have struck down the entire photo ID law, but was bound by the Supreme Court's decision that states may use voter ID laws if they are properly written. He called Wisconsin's version of the voter ID law "a cure worse than the disease" and said voter fraud essentially was a phantom.

Although the judge's decision will be appealed, Heck advised voters to get appropriate ID regardless.

"This law could be changed again. The Legislature could come back next year and change it again," Heck said. "So rather than rely on the hope that this is absolutely going to prevail, I think voters should play it smart and assume that they're going to have to show some ID, and try to go out and get that."

The judge's ruling will have no effect on the primary election next week, but as it stands it will affect the Nov. 8 presidential election.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI