On 50th Anniversary of Voting Rights Act, the Struggle Continues in Wisconsin

Law Needed Now As It Was Then In Light of Recent, Racially Motivated Attacks on Voting Rights

MADISON, Wis. — The Voting Rights Act was signed in to law in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson to outlaw discrimination in voting laws. Fifty years later in Wisconsin the law is as needed now as it was then in light of racially motivated changes to election laws adopted by Gov. Scott Walker and Republican state legislative majorities, according to One Wisconsin Institute Executive Director Scot Ross.

“Since 2011 laws have been passed in Wisconsin that embody a coordinated attempt to suppress the turnout of African-American, Latino, and young voters,” commented Ross. “The unseemliness of the crass political calculations behind these new laws is exceeded only by the offensiveness of their racism.”

A lawsuit brought by One Wisconsin Institute and seven other groups that advocate for improved voter participation was filed in federal court earlier this summer. It seeks to strike down various restrictive voting measures put in place by Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled state legislature since 2011.

The complaint outlines more than a dozen policies that have made voting in Wisconsin more challenging for eligible citizens, including turning back progress around early, creating additional obstacles for voter registration, and passing a law that enables intrusive and intimidating election monitoring. The complaint also brings new challenges to the voter ID law.

State Republicans have indicated they intend to take up more legislation in the 2015 fall legislative session to continue to manipulate the rules on elections and voting in Wisconsin for the 2016 elections.

Ross concluded, “The fiftieth anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act is time to reflect on the long and shameful history of politicians using racially biased laws to gain an unfair partisan advantage. It is also a time to rededicate ourselves to the struggle for equality and renew our commitment to the fight back against those who would unfairly discriminate against legal voters on the basis of their race, age, economic circumstances or partisan affiliation.”

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One Wisconsin Institute is a non-partisan, progressive research and education organization dedicated to a Wisconsin with equal economic opportunity for all.