Judge Rejects Anti-Democratic Lame-Duck Laws in Wisconsin

Infuriated by Democratic victories in 2018, Wisconsin legislators made a blatant power grab during a lame-duck session: They passed a package of legislation that would’ve made voting even harder than it already is in the state.

Many fans of democracy were understandably outraged — and now a judge has ruled that these laws were unjust. It’s worth taking a moment to celebrate this win for voting rights, but Republicans will surely be headed for appeal.

Wisconsin Republicans flew a little too close to the sun with this one by passing legislation that was so blatantly partisan that it was impossible to ignore. They attempted to tighten up voter identification laws, limit early voting and change the timing of the 2020 primary. Republican legislators undertook other moves explicitly designed to limit the authority of the incoming Democratic governor, Tony Evers.

It’s notable that Wisconsin already has an extremely strict voter identification law — one that disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of people. Some argue that the close election in 2016 came down to this law, at least in part. After all, voter ID laws tend to disproportionately affect communities who are more likely to vote Democratic, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lost the state by a very slim margin.

In this case, brought by Citizen Action of Wisconsin and the One Wisconsin Institute, Judge James Peterson ruled that the laws violated a 2016 court order designed to prevent this very scenario. And he should be familiar with the context of the original 2016 court order, since he’s the one who wrote it.

Republicans tried to argue that the restrictions on early voting were designed to level the playing field, claiming that offering six weeks of early voting in larger — and coincidentally more liberal — areas was unfair when smaller, often conservative communities couldn’t afford to offer that level of access.

Meanwhile, Democrats maintained that larger cities need more time for voting given the sheer volume of people participating, and they argued that trying to restrict early voting to just two weeks in advance of an election, as Republicans wanted, was unjust. Judge Peterson agreed.

He also agreed that restrictions on allowable identification, including barring student IDs and limiting the use of temporary identification, ran contrary to the court order, striking down these provisions. These measures too closely mirrored an earlier effort at disenfranchising Wisconsin voters that had already been ruled unacceptable; you can’t just introduce something under a new name or bill number and hope no one notices.

An appeal is pending, but the judge’s orders remain in place, so the laws as passed by the Wisconsin GOP cannot be enforced.

Of note: Wisconsin’s new attorney general, who would normally be tasked with the appeal, has connections to the groups who brought the original suit and has recused himself, leaving the case to his deputy. Wouldn’t it be encouraging to see a similar commitment to recusal in cases where there are clear conflicts of interest on the federal level?

Photo credit: Coy St. Clair/Getty Images

31 comments

Mia B
Melisa B2 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Emma L
Ellie L2 months ago

very good

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson3 months ago

Nice.

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Christine S
Christine Stewart3 months ago

thank you!

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Julie D
Julie D3 months ago

Yay! I love to see crooked politicians thwarted!

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Shirley P
Shirley Plowman3 months ago

THANK GOD THAT THIS DIDN'T TAKE HOLD, IT WAS TOTAL CORRUPTION!!!!!!
HOW IN THE WORLD DO GOP MEMBERS THERE THINK???!!!! AGAIN, THANK GOD IT WAS ALL STRUCK DOWN!!

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara3 months ago

th

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara3 months ago

go and vote

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Paul Carter
Paul Carter3 months ago

I am really grateful to live in a country where everyone is encouraged to vote, where registration is simple and inclusive. and the only way political parties can try to seek advantage is by moving constituency boundaries. Perhaps one day the citizens of the USA will be able to say the same thing, I really hope so.

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Debbi W
Debbi W3 months ago

I fail to understand how anyone, no matter what state they live in, would tolerate restrictive voting laws. Voting is a _right_ of every citizen. No one should be deprived of their right to vote.

I'm glad of the rejection and sincerely hope it stands.

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