MADISON, Wis. — Today, federal Judge James Peterson issued a ruling in the federal voting rights lawsuit One Wisconsin Institute Inc., et al v. Gerald Nichol, et al. One Wisconsin Institute and their co-plaintiffs have argued that a series of election law changes made by Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-led state legislature were meant to and have the effect of making it more difficult to vote in Wisconsin, especially for minorities, young people, and voters who tend to support Democratic candidates.
Republicans defending the challenged provisions have claimed they are necessary to protect against voter fraud, despite the fact that a person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to impersonate a voter. But behind closed doors, Wisconsin legislators discussed how the law would help Republicans by disenfranchising voters in Democratic areas.
Today’s ruling strikes down a number of the challenged provisions restricting voting rights of Wisconsinites, including restrictions on early voting hours and elimination of weekend voting; restrictions on use of student IDs for voting, and the 28-day residency requirement, among other provisions.
In regard to restrictions on hours for in-person absentee voting, the court specifically found that the law “intentionally discriminates on the basis of race…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.”
Scot Ross, executive director for One Wisconsin Institute, offered the following statements in response to today’s ruling:
“We argued Gov. Walker made it harder for Democrats to vote and easier for Republicans to cheat, and the judge agreed.
“The people behind the laws Judge Peterson has struck down sought to put their own partisan interests ahead of the rights of every American — regardless of race, party, or age – to cast their ballot as they so choose.
“Make no mistake about it, this is the strategy that has gone on for decades with Republicans. They want to do everything to create longer lines in urban areas and on college campuses, so that instead of accessing the franchise, voters simply go home because they can’t wait for hours and hours. This is their strategy, and there is not one piece of this attack on voters that can be seen as other than serving that end.”
“As the eyes of the nation are focused on the accomplishments and legacy of our nation’s first African American President and First Lady, Gov. Walker and his legislative allies refuse to accept the expanding diversity of our nation. Rather than make their public policy more inclusive, Republicans instead chose to rig the laws to rig the ballot box.
“Today’s decision is a huge win not only for the plaintiffs but also for democracy itself. We could not be more proud of this victory.”