Barely two weeks before the next statewide election day, the people who run Wisconsin’s new voting information website are making last-minute changes in an effort to ensure that the site does what it says it will. The month-old site, MyVote.Wi.Gov, was undergoing updates and outright fixes Friday afternoon in advance of the Aug. 9 primaries. And upgrades are likely to continue this week, State Elections Commission officials said. The biggest Friday fix repaired a glitch that made it so no one in Green Bay could look up his or her polling place via the site. Officials with the Elections Commission worked with the Green Bay City Clerk’s Office to solve the problem after being alerted by a USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin reporter that part of the site wasn’t working for anyone with a Green Bay address.
Articles about voting issues in Wisconsin.
With the presidential election only four months away, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel is seeking to fast-track his appeal of a federal-court decision that scaled back the state’s voter ID law. On Friday, Schimel, a Republican, asked a federal judge to stay his decision made earlier this week, saying the court had acted improperly and that its ruling threatened to confuse voters in the run-up to an election. The state says it will appeal the ruling to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
Wisconsin: Judge issues injunction, allows voters without IDs to cast ballots | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Paring back the state’s voter ID law four months before the presidential election, a federal judge ruled Tuesday that Wisconsin voters without photo identification can cast ballots by swearing to their identity. The decision by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman in Milwaukee creates a pathway for voters with difficulties getting IDs who have been unable to cast ballots under the state’s 2011 voter ID law. “Although most voters in Wisconsin either possess qualifying ID or can easily obtain one, a safety net is needed for those voters who cannot obtain qualifying ID with reasonable effort,” Adelman wrote in his 44-page decision. The judge issued his preliminary order because he found that those arguing for a pathway for some voter without IDs were “very likely” to succeed.
Whenever people say that strict voter-ID laws don’t disenfranchise eligible voters, I tell them the story of Eddie Lee Holloway Jr., whom I’ve written about before for The Nation. Holloway, a 58-year-old African-American man, moved from Illinois to Wisconsin in 2008 and voted without problems, until Wisconsin passed its voter-ID law in 2011. He brought his expired Illinois photo ID, birth certificate, and Social Security card to get a photo ID for voting, but the DMV rejected his application because his birth certificate read “Eddie Junior Holloway,” the result of a clerical error. After being told it would cost between $400 and $600 to fix his birth certificate at the Vital Records System in Milwaukee, Holloway spent $200 on a bus ticket to Illinois to try to amend his birth certificate. He made seven trips to government agencies in two different states, but he still couldn’t vote in Wisconsin’s April 5 primary. Today a federal district court in Wisconsin delivered a major victory for voters like Holloway, ruling that those who are unable to obtain a voter-ID in Wisconsin can instead vote by signing an affidavit. The preliminary injunction in a challenge brought by the ACLU protects the voting rights of thousands of Wisconsinites who faced disenfranchisement in November.
The state Elections Commission is working to implement polling place changes and new voter education requirements in light of a federal judge’s ruling on Wisconsin’s voter ID law. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman ruled Tuesday that voters who can’t obtain a state-issued ID must be allowed to sign an affidavit to verify their identity at the polls. Then they can vote on the spot. Adelman also directed the Elections Commission to train poll workers and educate voters about the affidavit. The Elections Commission is figuring out how to implement those changes, with just about three months to go before November’s general election, said spokesperson Reid Magney. “A lot of the details, it’s just too early to discuss at this point,” Magney said.
Wisconsin: State’s New Elections Commission OKs Spending $250K On Voter ID Education Campaign | Wisconsin Public Radio
The newly minted Wisconsin Elections Commission elected officers and approved spending on an education campaign for the state’s voter ID law during its first meeting Thursday. The commission will spend $250,000 on a public education campaign before the November election to remind people to bring an ID to the polls, and tell them how to get one if they don’t have it. Commissioner Don Millis wants to avoid money going towards TV ads that aren’t likely to run during prime time.
A federal judge said Thursday there are few clear guidelines for how to rule on parts of a challenge to Wisconsin’s voting rules and questioned how much of an effect the state’s voter ID law has had on elections. “Both the Republican side and the Democratic side probably overstated or over-predicted the impact the voter ID law would have on elections,” said U.S. District Judge James Peterson. “I just don’t see anything really powerful either way.” Peterson said people don’t expect voter qualification rules to have a partisan element, but noted there is no clear line of cases addressing that point. “Why aren’t there cases that really guide me in this way?” he asked an attorney for the challengers. “There’s no easy template for me to follow.”
A federal judge said Thursday that opponents of more than a dozen new Wisconsin election laws had made a “pretty decent case” that Republicans approved them to secure a partisan advantage, but added he isn’t convinced the measures actually had a dramatic effect. U.S. District Judge James Peterson’s comments came in closing arguments of a lawsuit challenging the laws passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker since 2011. Peterson promised to rule by the end of July but has said that will be too late to affect the Aug. 9 primary for the field of candidates running for dozens of state and federal races will be narrowed before the Nov. 8 general election. An attorney for two liberal groups challenging the laws, including the requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls, argued that they should be found unconstitutional and stopped from being enforced. But a state Department of Justice attorney said there was no evidence to support a wholesale undoing of the laws. “They’re going for the home run,” Assistant Attorney General Clay Kawski said. “They just haven’t shown that.”
After a century as a trailblazer for progressive democracy reforms, Wisconsin has become what one local union leader ruefully calls “a kind of laboratory for oligarchs to implement their political and economic agenda.” This assessment, delivered by David Poklinkoski, president of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2304, captures Wisconsin Democrats’ dim view of the brazenly partisan redistricting plan masterminded by GOP Governor Scott Walker. But the redistricting plan, so central in empowering Walker and his legislative allies to roll back social reforms in Wisconsin, is now the target of a federal lawsuit. First heard by federal judges in May, the suit is now before an appeals court that is expected to rule this summer. That ruling could reverberate in other states around the country with heavily GOP-tilted electoral maps. While a few Democratic-controlled state governments have district maps that favor their party, the 2010 Republican electoral sweep set off a nationally-coordinated and harshly partisan round of redistricting in states where both the governor and legislative majorities were Republican. Now, Republican-imposed plans in a number of other states—including Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Texas—stand to be affected by Wisconsin’s redistricting ruling, which will be handed down by the U.S. Seventh Court of Appeals.
Whether Wisconsin’s unique nonpartisan elections board was a failed experiment or was so successful that it became a political target, this much is true: It goes away this week. Targeted for elimination by Gov. Scott Walker and fellow Republicans who control the Legislature, the Government Accountability Board officially disbands as of Thursday. It was the only nonpartisan elections and oversight board in the country. In its place are two new commissions made up of partisan appointees that will regulate Wisconsin’s elections, ethics, campaign finance and lobbying laws. Those new commissions look a lot like the partisan panels that were widely disparaged as ineffective before they were replaced by the GAB eight years ago.