MADISON, Wis. – A federal appeals court panel on Monday confirmed a series of Republican-sanctioned voting restrictions in Wisconsin, giving conservatives a significant victory in a pair of lawsuits just a few months before residents of the camp state of battle they will vote for the president.
The three-judge panel, all named Republicans, found that the state can restrict early voting hours and reinstated the requirement that people must live in a district for 28 days, not 10, before they can vote. The panel also said that sending the ballots by email and fax in absentia is unconstitutional.
The state’s photo ID requirement for voters was not in doubt, though the panel did find that expired student IDs are acceptable at the polls and kept intact an option that allows people to vote without an ID if they show a statement. sworn saying they tried to get one.
Judge Frank Easterbrook, who wrote the opinion, noted that the restrictions do not overwhelm people in the state, where voters still enjoy more ways to register, long hours of voting on Election Day, and absentee voting options than in other states.
“Wisconsin has many rules that make voting easier,” Easterbrook wrote. “These facts matter when evaluating challenges to a handful of rules that make voting difficult.”
State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Republican running for Congress this fall, called the decision a victory for fair elections.
“The ruling puts municipalities in every corner of Wisconsin closer to a level playing field when it comes to early voting in person,” Fitzgerald said. “I applaud the Seventh Circuit for their decision and I look forward to moving forward with this fall’s elections.”
Democrats criticized the decision and called it an “assault on our democracy.”
“As (President Donald) Trump and his team grow increasingly nervous in November, a Republican-controlled court has just made another vicious assault on voting rights in Wisconsin,” said chairman of the state Democratic Party. Ben Wikler. “Trump knows that his path to victory is to suppress the vote as much as possible, and as we saw on April 7, when Republicans forced thousands of people to vote in person during a pandemic, there is nothing under that they are not willing to lower themselves. ” to take power. “
Republicans enacted a series of voting restrictions when they took full control of the Wisconsin state government in 2011. They forced voters to show photo identification at the polls, reduced the early voting window 30 days before an election to 12, eliminated early voting on weekends Early voting limited to one place per municipality, among other changes, and extended the residency requirement to vote from 10 days to 28.
Republican lawmakers said the changes were designed to create uniform rules across the state and combat voter fraud, although no one has shown that there is widespread fraud in the state.
The liberal group One Wisconsin Institute defied restrictions in Madison federal court. United States District Judge James Peterson deemed most of the restrictions unconstitutional in July 2016, although he allowed the voter ID requirement to be maintained as the provision had withstood previous legal challenges.
That same month, another federal judge, Lynn Adelman in Milwaukee, ruled in a separate lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that state residents who lack proper photo identification could vote with an affidavit that affirms their identity.
The decisions marked a major victory for Democrats, who have long argued that Republicans are using the photo identification law and other voting limitations to discriminate against the poor, racial minorities, and younger voters who are more likely to vote for the democrats. City officials in Madison and Milwaukee, the state’s two most Democratic cities, used the Peterson and Adelman decisions to extend early voting hours and venues in the 2018 election, and Democrats moved to all state offices.
The Seventh Circuit panel heard the Republican appeal in February 2017, more than three years ago. Since then, there has been a wave of new lawsuits that resulted in extended registration and voting deadlines for the Wisconsin state Supreme Court and presidential primary elections on April 7. Those cases are ongoing and the decisions could affect the rules for the presidential elections on November 3.
Trump closely led Wisconsin in 2016, and the state is expected to again play a critical role in his reelection bid this fall.