GREEN BAY, Wis. — Recent rulings in federal court striking down restrictions on early voting enacted by Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled state legislature are big wins for Wisconsin voters. Local election officials are now free to offer extended early voting hours, including on evenings and weekends, and can offer early voting at multiple locations, not just the clerk’s office. Analiese Eicher of One Wisconsin Institute, the lead plaintiff in the federal lawsuit, today called for the Green Bay City Clerk and other local election administrators to help voters vote by offering more early voting.
“The recent federal court decisions allowing for more early voting hours and locations were big wins for voters,” commented Eicher. “Now it’s time for local election officials to step up to help voters vote with evening and weekend hours and multiple early vote locations.”
In the lawsuit, One Wisconsin Institute, et. al. v. Thomsen, plaintiffs 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.
Over the course of the two-week court trial held in May, testimony from a Republican insider revealed that, in their private deliberations, GOP state Senators were “giddy” over the prospects of passing laws they believed would discourage voting and help them win elections. The witness, under oath, testified current Republican Senate President Mary Lazich, “told her colleagues to consider its impact in the Democratic strongholds of Milwaukee and the state’s college campuses.”
In the April 2016 elections voters at polling locations in Green Bay were subjected to long lines and waits of up to two hours to cast their ballots. Media reports indicated voters at UW-Green Bay still had not cast their ballots nearly two hours after the polls officially closed at 8PM.
A decision by Federal District Court Judge Peterson and subsequent rejection of a state appeal for a stay by a three judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Federal Court of Appeals invalidated a number of the challenged laws, including restricting early voting and limiting the number of early voting locations.
According to information from the Green Bay City Clerk, early voting will begin on September 26 but be limited to only at City Hall and only between the hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with the exception of November 3 and 4 when voting will occur until 5 p.m. Unfortunately at this time Green Bay election administrators are neither providing extended evening or weekend hours as allowed by the court decision nor allowing voters to cast their early vote ballot at satellite locations.
Eicher concluded, “The courts have struck down laws passed by partisan GOP politicians over the last five years intended to make it harder for certain voters to participate in elections and to give themselves an unfair partisan advantage. Now that the courts have struck down these laws we can’t allow the inaction of local election administrators to allow these barriers to the ballot box to stand any longer.”