The proposed bills before you today are profoundly disrespectful toward the record-setting 2.6 million Wisconsin citizens who cast their votes in the November midterm election. Nowhere is that more evident than in a renewed effort to restrict early voting.
One Wisconsin Institute was the lead plaintiff in the federal lawsuit that resulted in municipalities across the state being able to help voters to participate in our elections by offering early voting at convenient times and in convenient locations.
Today we are asking that you reject the proposals contained in these bills to reinstate unnecessary and unconstitutional limits on early voting.
Here’s the bottom line: early voting is legal across Wisconsin. Early voting is popular across Wisconsin. The evidence is clear as more than 565,000 people early voted in the November 2018 election — including members of the majority party on this very committee.
Those record levels of early voting helped propel record turnout for a midterm election. It seems some need to be reminded that is a good and not a bad thing.
This latest effort to subvert voter rights and limit early voting is playing with legal fire.
As noted in the analysis of this provision by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the decision of federal Judge James Peterson in One Wisconsin Institute et. al. v. Thomsen et. al. held the limits imposed on days and times of early voting were unconstitutional.
Judge Peterson opined that these previous restrictions, promoted as necessary for uniformity, went in exactly the wrong direction. Instead of seeking to limit early voting in particular areas of the state, why not expand early voting everywhere?
He also went on to note the nefarious and shameful purposes behind the crackdown on early voting and other assaults on voter rights perpetrated by Republican legislative majorities and soon to be former Gov. Scott Walker in previous sessions.
His decision found “ … Wisconsin’s restrictions on the hours for in-person absentee voting have had a disparate effect on African Americans and Latinos. The court also finds that the legislature’s justification for these restrictions was meager, and that the intent was to secure partisan advantage.”
You may not always like the outcomes, but as public officials who swore an oath to uphold the Constitutions of the United States and Wisconsin and it is your duty to listen to and to respect the decisions voters make in elections.
Efforts to limit the voices of the people and our right to be heard after electoral results don’t all go your way is not only wrongheaded, it is unconstitutional.
We will do whatever is necessary to ensure no legal Wisconsin voters are unfairly denied their right to vote because Republicans have rigged the rules time and again to try to win elections.
Today, the choice is yours.
I hope you will choose the respectful, responsible option. Stop before it’s too late and do the right thing — end the tantrums, put away the swords and come together to solve problems instead of pursuing news ways to suppress participation in our democracy.
We are a Democracy only as long as elected officials don’t put themselves above the law.