MADISON, Wis. — One Wisconsin Institute today sent the following letter to the Wisconsin Elections Commission urging them to, “exercise oversight on important issues arising from the decisions of Judge Peterson and the Seventh District Federal Court of Appeals in One Wisconsin Institute, et. al. v. Thomsen finding the state’s implementation of the voter ID requirement was unconstitutional and deciding in favor of plaintiffs on other issues.”
The decision by Federal District Court Judge Peterson and subsequent rejection of the state’s appeal for a stay by a three judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Federal Court of Appeals was a victory for Wisconsin voters, invalidating laws restricting early voting and limiting the number of early voting locations and allowing for the electronic transmission of absentee ballots. In addition the courts have indicated they will monitor the state to ensure legal voters will not be disenfranchised by bureaucratic impediments to obtaining a voter ID.
The text of the letter follows:
Dear Wisconsin Election Commissioners,
I am writing today to encourage the Elections Commission to exercise oversight on important issues arising from the decisions of Judge Peterson and the Seventh District Federal Court of Appeals in One Wisconsin Institute, et. al. v. Thomsen finding the state’s implementation of the voter ID requirement was unconstitutional and deciding in favor of plaintiffs on other issues.
Immediately preceding opening arguments in the trial in federal district court, Gov. Walker’s administration, in an implicit admission of the serious flaws in the ID Petition Process (IDPP), adopted emergency rules intended to allow legal voters to cast their ballot in the November 2016 election.
However, we remain gravely concerned that legal voters who must seek an ID through the IDPP in the days leading up to the election may still be disenfranchised if not provided with a voucher for voting in a timely manner.
For example, what may happen to individuals voting provisionally on Tuesday and needing to present an ID by Friday? Those renewing their driver’s license are provided a receipt from the DMV on the spot. Why do other individuals need to wait five days?
And critically, what if any capacity exists at the Elections Commission to monitor how the DMV is handling requests to ensure they are complying with their state procedure and federal court rulings to prevent legal voters from being disenfranchised in November?
It has also been brought to our attention that the website, myvote.wi.gov, does not provide voters with an option to have an absentee ballot request fulfilled by FAX or email as is now allowed under the One Wisconsin Institute decision. While electronic methods of ballot delivery are permissive, not mandatory, voters ought to be able to access it where available.
It is important that rules on voting are as clear as possible to both administrators and the public to ensure every legal voter who wishes to cast their ballot has the opportunity to do so. In that spirit, we encourage the Elections Commission to use the powers at its disposal in a proactive manner to provide guidance to local election administrators, to ensure that local election administrators are complying with all provisions expanding voter rights under the One Wisconsin Institute decision and to educate the public about their rights and responsibilities to participate in our elections.
Thank you in advance for your prompt attention these issues and your diligence in ensuring the smooth operation of our elections in November.
Executive Director, One Wisconsin Institute