A federal judge in Madison, Wisconsin ruled on Friday that parts of the state’s voter ID law, as well as other voting laws, are unconstitutional—specifically, the parts that seem to have been meant to discriminate against minority voters.
From the Wisconsin State Journal
U.S. District Judge James Peterson, in a 119-page ruling issued late Friday, said that the state Legislature tailored that part of the law to curtail voting in Milwaukee, specifically “to suppress the reliably Democratic vote of Milwaukee’s African-Americans.”
“Wisconsin has the authority to regulate its elections to preserve their integrity,” Peterson wrote, “and a voter ID requirement can be part of a well-conceived election system. But … parts of Wisconsin’s election regime fail to comply with the constitutional requirement that its elections remain fair and equally open to all qualified electors.”
Unless overturned on appeal, Peterson’s ruling will take effect for the general election (as will, in all likelihood, the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th circuit’s decision that North Carolina’s new voting restrictions were unconstitutional.)
Peterson, who lambasted the reduction of time for in-person voting from 30 to 12 days before the election as discriminatory, said “the Legislature’s objective was political.” He also wrote that “the state’s current process for getting free IDs to people who lack such documents [as birth certificates]…is unconstitutional and ‘a wretched failure’ because it has left a number of overwhelmingly black and Hispanic citizens unable to obtain IDs.”
Peterson also threw out a requirement that dorm lists to be used as proof of residence for college students contain citizenship information; tossed a 28-day residency requirement; barred a prohibition on distributing absentee ballots by fax or email; and ended a ban on using expired but otherwise qualifying student IDs.
He did, however, say that prohibitions on voting the Monday before an election makes sense, that clerks might have a day of rest.
Wisconsin’s State Department of Justice plans to appeal the decision, of which Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said, “We are disappointed in the decision by an activist federal judge…Voters support common-sense measures to protect the integrity of our votes.” Governor Walker did not specify which votes he considers “ours.”