2016 Federal Court Ruling Had Found GOP Voting Laws Discriminated on Basis of Race, Voter ID Requirement Was ‘Cure Worse Than The Disease’

Press Release

For Immediate Release
October 19, 2017
Media Contact
Mike Browne, Deputy Director
ICYMI: Wisconsin Election Commission Head Recent Statements on Voter ID Law
2016 Federal Court Ruling Had Found GOP Voting Laws Discriminated on Basis of Race, Voter ID Requirement Was ‘Cure Worse Than The Disease’

MADISON, Wis. — Sworn testimony from a former state legislative Republican insider in the federal voting rights trial One Wisconsin Institute, et. al. v. Thomsen, et. al. revealed that, in their private deliberations, GOP state Senators were “giddy” over the prospects of passing a voter ID law they believed would discourage voting and help them win elections. In recent comments, reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the head of the Wisconsin Election Commission agreed that the state’s strict voter ID law targeted specific communities.

“Time and again the real voting fraud in Wisconsin has been revealed as partisan politicians manipulating the rules on voting to give themselves an unfair partisan advantage,” commented One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “The Wisconsin Election Commission Chair’s comments add to the overwhelming evidence of what Gov. Walker and the Republican controlled legislature intended.”

In reported comments, Wisconsin Election Commission Chair Mark Thomsen said, “I think the use of voter ID has been designed to impact and reduce voting, in particular in the major cities and within the minority communities … ”

During the 2016 trial the witness for the plaintiffs also testified, under oath, that the then-Republican Senate President Mary Lazich urged her colleagues to consider the impact of voter ID on areas of the state that have overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidates, including the City of Milwaukee and the state’s college campuses.

Federal District Court Judge James Peterson issued a ruling that struck 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.”

Peterson also found the state was unconstitutionally administering the voter ID law but was precluded from overturning it by higher court rulings. He wrote that “The evidence in this case casts doubt on the notion that voter ID laws foster integrity and confidence” and that the “… voter ID law is a cure worse than the disease.”

The case is currently on appeal before the Seventh Circuit Federal Court of Appeals.

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