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Are Student Votes on the Moving Truck? Early Primary Voting Starts Today

30 Jul

Today, Monday July 30, is the first day Wisconsin voters can take advantage of early and absentee voting before the August 14 primaries. Voting early, either in person at municipal clerks’ offices or by requesting an absentee ballot, makes civic participation and exercising the right to vote something citizens can do in their own time and on their own terms.

But amidst some lively, competitive primary races, some voters in Wisconsin may be trying to find their right to vote among boxes and packing peanuts. Student voters in particular are navigating new changes to elections law that put primary election day right on the cusp of the start date for many new leases. College towns like Madison are abuzz with moving vans on August 14. Some students even find themselves very temporarily homeless as one lease ends on August 14 and the next one begins on August 15.

Act 75 was signed by Governor Walker on November 16, 2011 so that Wisconsin could comply with the Federal Military and Overseas Voters Act. In order to make sure military and overseas voters could receive and mail back ballots, the date of the primaries were bumped up in states across the nation. Act 75 also included an option for these voters to receive their ballots and instructions electronically. Democratic legislators tried to get electronic balloting options included in the law for all voters, but that effort failed. (More electronic options should be the future of voting: Wisconsin Election Protection issued their report on the June 5 Recall Election in which they recommended options for people to show proof of residence electronically.)

We’ve blogged before about how changes in the elections rules and calendars impact student voters. It is unfortunate that thousands student voters who want to participate in primary elections will be experiencing the major life disruptions that come with moving in the back-to-school season. Fortunately early/absentee voting is still an option. Remind your fellow Wisconsin citizens that they can vote in the primaries now. For those who moved to a new Wisconsin address after July 18, voters will have to vote in the polling place connected to where they last established residency.

The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation knows that citizens have the right to vote without barriers, misinformation or intimidation. We will continue to work to educate voters about their rights in order to counter the confusion, lack of clear information or the misinformation on the changes voting laws.

Recall Elections Report Released: Election Protection Says Law Changes Disfranchised Voters

25 Jul

The following press release was issued by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Election Protection coalition today. The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation is a member of Wisconsin Election Protection. Thanks to all of the attorneys, volunteers, observers, polling place staffers and watchdogs who help keep Wisconsin’s elections system strong. Together, we can all help to make it better. Read on for ways our elections can be improved to allow all eligible voters to cast their ballot.

Recent changes in voting laws in Wisconsin disfranchised voters in the June 5 Recall Election, according to a report issued by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Election Protection coalition today. Voter and poll worker misinformation and confusion over photo ID requirements, registration and residency documentation and the lack of corroboration kept eligible voters from casting a ballot. The Wisconsin Election Protection report suggests changes the State of Wisconsin can make to improve our voting system to ensure that all voters can participate in our elections.

Wisconsin Election Protection, in cooperation with the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law, sponsored the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline for the Recall Election where attorneys and highly trained volunteers answered more than 2,000 calls from voters and poll observers. In cooperation with The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network more than 150 observers were placed in polling places around the state. The report issued today is a summary of issues attorneys and volunteers addressed state-wide.

“The biggest problems that we saw are that misinformation, limited poll worker training and recent changes in state law that make it harder to register and vote are the real problems that must be addressed before the November Presidential Election,” said Milwaukee attorney and hotline coordinator Attorney Ann Jacobs. “Claims of voter fraud that some raised after the election were found to be simply incorrect. The greatest threats to our elections are in the impediments eligible voters face on Election Day.”

The Wisconsin Election Protection report outlines concerns the coalition has with confusion over registration and residency documentation, voter and poll worker misinformation and confusion over photo ID requirements polling place location changes, lines and delays for voters, inadequate registration forms and ballots in a high-turnout election, and inadequate training for poll workers – particularly after there have been significant changes in voting laws, and some instances of voter intimidation by elections observers and poll workers.

The report also includes recommendations for the 2012 Presidential Election that the Government Accountability Board should consider including:

  • Improving guidance on what documents are and are not acceptable for voter registration;
  • Allowing proof of residence to be in electronic form (as many utilities, banks and other formal institutions move to online statements);
  • Posting the DMV hotline so that voters who have lost their driver’s licenses or state ID cards can call for the number needed to register;
  • Restoring corroboration for voters who do not have residency documentation in their names;
  • Restoring the ability to send and receive absentee ballots by e-mail or fax;
  • Improving Chief Inspectors’ and poll workers’ training statewide;
  • Ensuring adequate signage, ballots and registration materials for high-turnout elections;
  • Using a single, uniform statewide  voter registration form;
  • Expanding voter education; and communicating with all voters and poll workers about the current status of the Voter ID law.

These changes would improve Wisconsin’s voting system for the August 14 primaries and the November 6 election. Coalition members will be working to educate citizens about their voting rights for upcoming elections. For the Presidential Election, Wisconsin Election Protection will again have trained volunteers and attorneys staffing the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline and observing polling places. 

Wisconsin Election Protection is a nonpartisan coalition of organizations whose purpose is to protect voting rights, expose and prevent voter intimidation, and to preserve access to the polls for all voters.  For more on Wisconsin Election Protection, visit our Facebook page or follow us @EPWisco on Twitter. Find more about the national Election Protection project online.

Download the full Wisconsin Election Protection report on the June 5 Recall Election

Download a PDF of the Wisconsin Election Protection press release on the report

Voter ID On Hold, But Residency Requirements Lead to Confusion

18 Jul

Wednesday, July 18th starts the 28-day timeframe by which Wisconsin citizens establish their residency for voting. Wisconsin voters who move after Wednesday will have to register and vote at their old address in order to cast a ballot for the August primaries.

Don’t be surprised if residency requirements seem a bit confusing. For the June 5 recall election, the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation, through our work with the nonpartisan Wisconsin Election Protection (@EPWisco) effort, helped to field many questions from voters about when residency restrictions began and what documents were needed to prove residency for those who were registering on Election Day. A complete list of documents needed to prove residency is available on the GAB website.

Residency requirements raised a lot of questions for college student voters who wanted to vote in the June recall, but moved away from their college residence after the end of the semester,” said Chris Ahmuty, Executive Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “The new residency rules will definitely impact student voters this fall, particularly those who live or go to school in places where the primary races are the most competitive.”

The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation’s legal department interviewed students from around the state who would be impacted by the requirements to show a photo ID to vote. Students who move to Wisconsin from out of state would be particularly impacted by voter ID if their school did not have a free student ID that complied with the law. But even students who live in Wisconsin year-around are impacted by new residency restrictions if they move between their family and college residence.

Yesterday a second judge issued an order to stop the implementation of the Voter ID law. A federal lawsuit from the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation is still pending.  Read more about why we filed suit and why we amended our lawsuit to include a Voting Rights Act claim about the discriminatory racial impact of the law.

Help support the civil liberties news and opinion you get on Forward for Liberty. Join the ACLU of Wisconsin today or make a tax-deductible donation to the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation. Your contribution keeps Forward for Liberty, action alerts via email and social media, and other nonpartisan watchdog efforts going.

Voting With a Criminal Conviction in Wisconsin: “Off Paper” = Ex-Felons May Vote

1 Jun

Every election cycle we hear misinformation about who is allowed to vote. Some people think any criminal conviction, even misdemeanors, make people lose their voting rights. But under Wisconsin law, only those who have been convicted of felonies who are still in prison or who haven’t completed their entire sentence cannot vote. Once felons are “off paper” (or has completed all probation, parole and extended supervision), they can register and vote again.

The ACLU of Wisconsin worked to change the state law under the Doyle administration. Back around 2009, a statewide effort brought together faith groups, prisoner reentry organizations, racial justice groups and voters who were passionate about democracy and human rights to work to change the law and allow those with felony convictions to get their voting rights back upon release from prison. Some supporters said the change would decrease costs and confusion associated with the restriction. Others said participation in democracy, particularly for those who are living and working in our communities, is an important aspect of having former prisoners reintegrate into society. And with Wisconsin’s disproportionate minority incarceration rate, disfranchising felons perpetuates Jim Crow style suppression of minority communities. The law should still be changed, but for now voters need to know that felons have to wait until they are off paper to vote.

The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation is distributing non-partisan “Know Your Voting Rights: Wisconsin” guides to clarify some of Wisconsin’s new voting rules. These one-page fact sheets are available in Spanish and English on the aclu-wi.org website (factsheets are also available for student voters and voters with criminal convictions). As part of the national ACLU’s “Let Me Vote” campaign, the ACLU is working in Wisconsin and across the country to educate citizens about their voting rights and help them overcome the unfair barriers recently passed in many states to suppress the right to vote.

Help support the civil liberties news and opinion you get on Forward for Liberty. Join the ACLU of Wisconsin today or make a tax-deductible donation to the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation. Your contribution keeps Forward for Liberty, action alerts via email and social media, and other nonpartisan watchdog efforts going.

Students CAN vote in Wisconsin this summer – How to be prepared

1 May

Students: Download a PDF of a student voting rights FAQ online.

Recall Election is Tuesday, June 5, 2012:  Photo ID is NOT required to vote in the recall election.

You can vote in Wisconsin in the June 5 recall election even if you’re going out of state or away for the summer, as long as you consider Wisconsin to be your “voting residence” and intend to return here.  Of course, students can only vote in ONE place!  (Registration info below.)

Your “voting residence” can be either your college address or your family’s home address.

  • If your family’s home address is your voting residence: You can register (even on Election Day) and vote in the recall election at the voting location for your family home as long as your family lives in Wisconsin and has lived in that home for more than 28 days.
  • If college is your voting residence and you are not moving (or you move before May 8): You can register (even on Election Day) and vote in the recall election at the voting location for the address you’ll be at on June 5.
  • If college is your voting residence and you are moving between May 9 and June 5: You can register and vote in the recall election at the polling location for your May 8 address. So the polling place that corresponds to the address/dorm you lived in until at least May 8 is where you vote on June 5.

If college is your voting residence and you are leaving for summer vacation:

  • Consider voting “early absentee” before you leave for summer vacation.  From May 21-June 1, you can register and vote “early absentee” in person at the clerk’s office for your college address (even if you are moving between May 9 and June 5).  Most clerks’ offices are only open during the week, but some will be open Memorial Day weekend – call your clerk for details (http://gab.wi.gov/clerks/directory).

OR

  • Register before you leave for summer vacation at the clerk’s office for your college address and ask to have an absentee ballot mailed to you at your summer address.  (It must be postmarked by June 5 and the clerk must receive it by 4pm on June 8.)

To register to vote: 

  • You can register to vote anytime between now and the recall election on June 5.  You can even register at the polls on Election Day.
  • If you register at your clerk’s office or with a Special Registration Deputy before May 16, you don’t need proof of your address.
  • If you register after May 16 or on Election Day, bring a document with your name and voting address. This must be: a university photo ID along with a university fee receipt or list of dorm residents; a driver’s license; a state ID; a recent utility bill (electric, cell, phone, cable, etc.); a lease; a bank statement; a pay check; an employer ID card; or a government document or check.
  • If you have a Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID, bring it to put the license/ID number on the voter registration card. (If you don’t have a license/ID, use the last 4 digits of your social security number.)

Questions or problems? Call 866-OUR-VOTE on Election Day. Like Wisconsin Election Protection on Facebook or follow @EPWisco on Twitter to share your stories, questions and concerns!

Updated: 5/4/12

Aside

ACLU of WI Applauds Voter ID Circuit Court Injunction

6 Mar

Here is our statement in response to today’s news about the Circuit Court injunction against Wisconsin’s Voter ID law:

The ACLU of Wisconsin is pleased that Judge Flanagan has recognized that the burdens the photo-ID law imposes on thousands of voters likely violates the Wisconsin Constitution, as the NAACP and Voces de la Frontera have shown. 

The ACLU will continue with its separate case on behalf of numerous Wisconsin voters who will be harmed by the photo ID law.  The ACLU lawsuit claims that the photo-ID law violates the United States Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act.

Our organization is scheduled to have a conference meeting with a judge regarding the status of our lawsuit tomorrow. For breaking news about the ACLU’s federal voter ID lawsuit, please follow us on Twitter @ACLUofWisconsin.

ACLU’s Federal Lawsuit Against Voter ID: Today’s Filing Asks for Injunction, Voting Rights Act Claim

2 Mar

Today the ACLU took another important step in the federal lawsuit against Wisconsin’s voter ID law. Attorneys working on the case amended the lawsuit to include charges that the law illegally blocks minorities and veterans from accessing the ballot box.  The amended complaint also seeks an injunction so that plaintiffs who face significant barriers to obtaining one of the limited forms of ID required by law can vote in the upcoming April 3 election.

The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court with the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, and Dechert LLP, also seeks an injunction so that many of the named plaintiffs can vote on April 3, when Wisconsin will hold its presidential primary and local elections.

The filing today supplements a federal challenge against one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the nation and on behalf of a broad spectrum of plaintiffs, including white, black, and Latino voters, homeless and low-income citizens, veterans, and students. 

“We can now demonstrate what we have always suspected—that strict photo ID laws have a more severe negative impact on black and Latino voters,” said Jon Sherman, an attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “The Voting Rights Act was created to combat exactly this type of barrier, and we intend to see it enforced in Wisconsin.”

You can also hear the ACLU of Wisconsin’s Communications Director Stacy Harbaugh on WORT-FM 89.9′s In Our Backyard describe why this step to amend the lawsuit was important:

The original suit, filed in December, said that Wisconsin’s practice of only allowing certain types of photo identification imposes severe and unjustifiable burdens and imposes a poll tax on voters.

The amended complaint charges the voter ID law:

  • Violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans the use of voting practices that have a disparate negative impact on racial and language minorities. Research commissioned by the ACLU indicates the law has a disproportionate impact on Black and Latino voters, who are more likely to lack photo ID accepted for voting in Wisconsin.
  • Arbitrarily prevents veterans who only have a Veterans Administration ID card from voting. Wisconsin deems such identification unacceptable.
  • Violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because Wisconsin’s photo ID law results in the arbitrary treatment of voters trying to get a state ID card.

Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, emphasized the importance of obtaining relief for named plaintiffs. “It is unconscionable that Wisconsin would prevent veterans who possess a valid federal ID from voting,” he said. “This is no way to thank them for their service to our country.” 

One of those veterans is Sam Bulmer, 63, who served in the Air Force for 13 years and is currently homeless. Bulmer lacks a driver’s license and cannot obtain a state ID card due to the stringent requirements for a birth certificate in his home state of Kansas.   

“Mr. Bulmer’s experience is startling, but it’s not unique,” said Heather Johnson, civil rights attorney at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.  “Veterans experience homelessness at an alarming rate, and many will be excluded from the democratic process if this law goes forward.  We need to send a clear message to Wisconsin and every other state considering similar legislation: we won’t let you silence the voices of homeless veterans.”

Also among those suing are two Black Milwaukee residents: Eddie Lee Holloway, Jr., who used to regularly serve as a poll worker, but whose incorrect birth certificate will prevent him from getting a state ID and voting; and Shirley Brown, who was born in Louisiana at home by midwife and as a result, has no record of her birth.

“All citizens should be free to vote,” said Neil Steiner, an attorney with Dechert LLP. “Disenfranchising eligible voters is not a valid rationale for a law.”

The defendants include Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb, who oversees the Department of Motor Vehicles and members of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, which oversees election laws.

Attorneys on the case include Sherman, Laughlin McDonald, and Nancy Abudu of the ACLU Voting Rights Project, Dupuis and Karyn Rotker of the ACLU of Wisconsin, Johnson and Karen Cunningham of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and Neil Steiner, Craig Falls, and Diane Princ of Dechert LLP.

To read the complaint in Frank v. Walker, go to: www.aclu.org/voting-rights/frank-v-walker-amended-complaint

This announcement has also been shared on the national American Civil Liberties Union website: www.aclu.org/voting-rights/aclu-adds-charges-suit-challenging-wisconsin-voter-id-law

For more information about voter suppression, go to: www.aclu.org/voter-suppression-america.

Help support the civil liberties news and opinion you get on Forward for Liberty. Join the ACLU of Wisconsin today or make a tax-deductible donation to the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation. Your contribution keeps Forward for Liberty, action alerts via email and social media, and other nonpartisan watchdog efforts going.

Students Shouldn’t Pay for Voter ID: No Citizen Should Pay For the Right To Vote in Wisconsin

24 Feb

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Student Senate is charging students for the cost of special IDs needed in order to comply with Wisconsin’s new voter ID law. The ACLU of Wisconsin’s Chippewa Valley Chapter complained about this additional charge to students in a letter sent on February 16 to the University’s Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich, special assistant to the chancellor Teresa O’Halloran, and student body President Phil Rynish. Today’s Eau Claire Leader-Telegram updates the paper’s readers about the status of this unfunded mandate.

UW-Eau Claire campus leadership was, like university and technical colleges across the state, forced into an unnecessary position after Act 23,  the voter ID law, was passed. The voter ID law allowed for student IDs to be among the accepted forms of photo IDs now required for citizens to cast a ballot. [However, the law required student IDs to have features that no existing student IDs had at the time the law was enacted.] It became the responsibility of accredited colleges and universities to scramble to create IDs that complied with the law. At a time when college budgets are being slashed, the UWEC Student Senate passed the costs of this unfunded mandate onto students.

The February 16 letter from the Chippewa Valley Civil Liberties Union was an important act of voting rights advocacy from a local organization committed to defending voting rights of student, elderly, low-income and minority voters who are most likely to be disfranchised under the state’s new voter ID law. The ACLU’s Chippewa Valley Chapter letter read:

“Now that Wisconsin’s Voter Identification Act is law, certain groups of voters, including college students, may be turned away from the polls this year when they were otherwise eligible to vote before the law was passed.

“As you are aware, this law restricts voting rights by requiring one of a limited type of government-issued photo IDs, eliminating corroboration of identity at registration, and requiring voters to have lived in their residence for a longer period of time.  For University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students in particular, this law prohibits the use of their school ID as it requires identification that includes the student’s current address, date of birth, and signature, information that the university-issued ID lacks.  For students who lack the official identification stipulated by the law, this presents a potential obstacle for their participation in the voting process. 

“Although the administration of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has made an effort to assist those students who need a government-issued photo ID compliant with the new law, the fact is, charging students money in order to obtain an ID for voting purposes is effectively a poll tax. This is a violation of the 24th amendment.  The university should offer the student IDs for free.

“In our view, requiring only certain types of photo ID imposes a burden on the right to vote that violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.  While the university is not responsible for a law that is unjust in the first place, the university can, and should, minimize the harm of such a law by upholding students’ 24th amendment rights.  As a university whose mission includes fostering ‘intellectual courage’ in its students and providing them with a ‘foundation for active citizenship’ it is the very least you can do in this situation.

“Respectfully,

Stephanie Turner, President”

This letter isn’t a threat of litigation. It is a call to action. The state voter ID law discriminates against students who would otherwise be eligible to vote. That’s why the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of student voters as well as other eligible citizens who will not be able to vote this year due to the new law. Read more about the types of voters who will find trouble with Voter ID.

The best way for the UW-Eau Claire to support all student voting rights is not to charge students for the identification required under state law. But charging students to cover the cost of the new IDs is only a symptom of a larger problem: Voter ID. We’re taking that problem to federal court. UW-Eau Claire students can help us fight the state law by contacting the ACLU of Wisconsin if they do not have one of the other accepted forms of ID (such as a passport or Wisconsin Driver’s License) and can’t get a free Wisconsin ID. Tell us your story at vote@aclu-wi.org.

Help support the civil liberties news and opinion you get on Forward for Liberty. Join the ACLU of Wisconsin today or make a tax-deductible donation to the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation. Your contribution keeps Forward for Liberty, action alerts via email and social media, and other nonpartisan watchdog efforts going.

Public Safety Concerns Not a Barrier to GAB Disclosure of Recall Petitions: Troubling Databases Next

2 Feb

Today the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin reiterated its position on the privacy rights of survivors of domestic violence in the release of petitions to recall Governor Walker and Lt. Governor Kleefisch. In a letter to the Government Accountability Board and to state Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen, the ACLU of Wisconsin asked for privacy rights of confidential electors be extended to any searchable database that may be available to the public.

The ACLU of Wisconsin wrote that state law protects the privacy rights of confidential electors in other public documents such as the election poll lists. Those same protections should be extended to other electoral public documents such as the recall petitions. Confidential electors should not have to surrender their free speech and assembly rights to participate in their democracy.  

While scanned PDF copies of recall petitions are easy to access but difficult to search, a database of petition signers makes identifying individual names and addresses very easy to find. In this case, survivors of domestic violence and targets of stalking have a clear public safety interest in having their information redacted from a searchable database. Similarly, it should be easy to redact the information of confidential electors from a database as opposed to hard copies of over a million petition signatures.

The ACLU of Wisconsin continues to urge the GAB to appropriately balance the competing public interests of electoral integrity and transparency and political speech and association by redacting the information of confidential electors from any electronic data file before it is disclosed as a public record. Further, the ACLU of Wisconsin urges the GAB to refuse any cross-checking of data with other government agencies.

We understand that the GAB has received a variety of questions and complaints from Wisconsinites on a variety of data privacy concerns. After the news media broke the news on Tuesday night that the PDF documents were available online, the GAB’s public voicemail boxes were full and people were unable to leave a message with their concerns. We hope that the GAB will provide a process to hear the privacy concerns of Wisconsinites before constructing a searchable database and at the minimum, shield the information of the confidential electors who already receive privacy protections under state law.

If there are confidential electors who are concerned about the disclosure of their information in the release of recall petition documents or electronic data files, they can share their stories with the ACLU of Wisconsin by filing a complaint with our office.

Media: Coverage of this topic before the PDF copies of the petitions were posted online included an article in the Wisconsin State Journal, an interview on the Wisconsin Radio Network and TMJ 620 AM in Milwaukee, and on NBC 15 in Madison and TMJ-4 and Fox News 6 in Milwaukee. An article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on the Attorney General’s opinion about the public nature of the petitions. However journalists tweeted from the press conference that the AG clarified that redacting some information on the petitions based on public safety concerns was up to the GAB’s discretion. This opinion was echoed by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. Reactions to the posting of PDF copies included a story on NBC 15 and NBC 26 in Green Bay.

We will share more media coverage of this issue soon.

Wisconsin Legislators’ Letter to US Attorney General Brings Attention to Disfranchisement in Wisconsin

13 Jan

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin applauds today’s move by state legislators to request action from the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to “use the full weight of the Justice Department to take legal action, as authorized under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, to ensure that the right of Wisconsin citizens to vote is not abridged or denied on the basis of race or color. Signed by Governor Walker on May 25, 2011, Wisconsin’s requirement to show one of a limited number of government-issued, photo identification to vote will cause confusion at the polls and disfranchise elderly, disabled, veteran, student and minority voters.

“Today’s letter from state legislators echoes the call to action the American Civil Liberties Union has made to the U.S. Attorney General’s office since July 2011. Since then, the ACLU has delivered over 75,000 letters to Holder on this issue,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Communications Director Stacy Harbaugh. “The ACLU has taken legal action in Wisconsin and across the country to stop a new wave of voter suppression laws. It is time for U. S. Attorney General Holder to connect the dots between Wisconsin’s restrictive voter ID law and discrimination against citizens who face barriers to participating in our democracy.”

Take action today: Ask U.S. Attorney General Eric  Holder to investigate voter suppression laws in Wisconsin and across the country.

On December 13, 2011, the ACLU of Wisconsin, the national American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty filed a lawsuit in federal court charging that Wisconsin’s voter ID law is unconstitutional and will deprive citizens of their basic right to vote. The lawsuit is the only active federal challenge against a voter ID law, the most common type of legislation that is part of a nationwide attack on the right to vote.

If you or someone you know will not be able to vote next year due to Wisconsin’s restrictive Voter ID law, share the story with the ACLU of Wisconsin. Download our feedback form online.

The complaint says that allowing only certain types of photo ID imposes a severe burden on the right to vote in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. It also states that the law violates the 24th and 14th amendments because it effectively imposes an unconstitutional poll tax. The lawsuit was filed on the same day that AG Holder spoke at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin about the legacy of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the continued importance of ensuring all citizens’ access to the ballot box without barriers.

To read stories about the plaintiffs in the Wisconsin voter ID challenge, visit: http://www.aclu.org/voting-rights/frank-v-walker-fighting-voter-suppression-wisconsin

In addition to Wisconsin, six other states recently passed voter ID laws: Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Other voter suppression measures that have been enacted nationwide include limiting the early voting period, eliminating same-day or Election Day registration, and restrictions on those who help register people to vote. The ACLU has also submitted comment letters to the U.S. Department of Justice regarding discriminatory voting laws in South Carolina and Texas. The ACLU intervened in court cases in which North Carolina, Alabama and most recently Arizona are challenging the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. The ACLU filed a motion to intervene in a similar case in Georgia.

Attorneys involved in the challenge to Wisconsin’s voter ID law include Jon Sherman, Laughlin McDonald and Nancy Abudu of the ACLU Voting Rights Project, Larry Dupuis and Karyn Rotker of the ACLU of Wisconsin and Heather Johnson and Karen Cunningham of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.

To read a copy of the complaint, go to: www.aclu.org/voting-rights/frank-v-walker-complaint

Social media: Tag this story by mentioning @ACLUofWisconsin, @ACLU, #VoterID or #votingrights.

ACLU Files Federal Lawsuit Challenging Wisconsin’s Unconstitutional Voter ID Law

13 Dec

You may have already heard the story about the 84-year-old Wisconsin resident, Ruthelle Frank, who will be disfranchised by our state’s new law requiring voters to show a photo ID to vote.

Today the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty filed a federal lawsuit charging that Wisconsin’s voter ID law is unconstitutional and will deprive citizens like Ruthelle of their basic right to vote. The lawsuit is the only active federal challenge against a voter ID law, the most common type of legislation that is part of a nationwide attack on the right to vote.

Find more information about voter suppression, including a video of Frank online.

“This lawsuit is the opening act in what will be a long struggle to undo the damage done to the right to vote by strict photo ID laws and other voter suppression measures,” said Jon Sherman, an attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “Across the nation, legislators are robbing countless American citizens of their fundamental right to vote, and in the process, undermining the very legitimacy of our democracy. We intend to redirect their attention to the Constitution.”

The complaint says that allowing only certain types of photo ID imposes a severe burden on the right to vote in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. It also states that the law violates the 24th and 14th amendments because it effectively imposes an unconstitutional poll tax. The lawsuit was filed the same day that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was scheduled to speak about the importance of ensuring equal access to the ballot box.

“The state of Wisconsin has created a voter ID system that is making it very hard or impossible for residents to exercise their cherished right to vote,” said Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “Wisconsin residents, including veterans, minority voters and seniors who have been voting for decades, will be turned away from the polls under this law’s restrictive photo ID requirements. Our lawsuit aims to block this unconstitutional law so that Wisconsin can continue its proud tradition of high participation in elections.”

The law will also have a severe impact on homeless voters, many of whom do not have photo identification.

“Protecting homeless persons’ right to vote is crucial, since voting is one of the few ways that homeless individuals can impact the political process and make their voices heard,” said Heather Johnson, civil rights attorney at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. “By limiting participation to Wisconsin residents with photo identification, this law effectively silences homeless persons’ voices. With homelessness rising by 12 percent in Wisconsin since the recession began, we cannot allow the state to set this dangerous and unconscionable precedent.”

The ACLU and the Law Center filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin on behalf of 17 eligible Wisconsin voters who may not be able to vote under the law. They include:

Ruthelle Frank, 84, of Brokaw, who does not have a birth certificate. When she was born at home in 1927, her mother recorded her birth in the family Bible. Under Wisconsin’s law, she is unable to obtain an ID needed to vote. She herself is an elected official, having served on her village board since 1996. “I have exercised my right to vote in every election since 1948,” Frank said. “I should not suddenly be barred from voting just because I don’t believe in paying for identification in order to vote. That’s like a poll tax and sends this country back decades ago when it comes to civil rights.”

Carl Ellis, 52, is a U.S. Army veteran living in a homeless shelter in Milwaukee. His only photo ID is a veteran ID card, which is not accepted under the law. “If I can serve my country, I should be able to vote for who runs it,” Ellis said. “Veterans and others who do not have a certain type of photo ID should not be kept from voting. These laws are undemocratic and un-American.”

Anthony Sharp, 19, is an African-American Milwaukee resident who does not have any of the accepted forms of photo ID under the law. Sharp, who lives with his family, does not have income needed to purchase a $20 certified copy of his birth certificate in order to vote. “You shouldn’t have to pay all this money to be able to vote,” he said. “I’m a citizen and was excited about voting, but I don’t have the money to pay for all these documents. Every American must be able to vote, not just those who can afford to get an ID.”

The 2011 Wisconsin Act 23 was signed into law May 25 and is effective starting with the state’s primary in February 2012. Under the law, Wisconsin voters will need to present a certain type of photo ID, which many eligible voters do not have. Many photo ID alternatives are excluded. For example, the law does not allow technical college and veteran ID cards. More than 380,000 students are in Wisconsin’s technical college system, and over 15 percent of them are minorities. Voter suppression laws disproportionately affect minorities, the elderly, students, people with disabilities, and low-income and homeless voters.

In addition to Wisconsin, six other states recently passed voter ID laws: Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Other voter suppression measures that have been enacted nationwide include limiting the early voting period, eliminating same-day or Election Day registration, and restrictions on those who help register people to vote. The ACLU has also submitted comment letters to the U.S. Department of Justice regarding discriminatory voting laws in South Carolina and Texas and has intervened in court cases in which North Carolina and Alabama are challenging the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. The ACLU also filed motions to intervene in similar cases filed by Arizona and Georgia.

Attorneys on the case include Jon Sherman, Laughlin McDonald and Nancy Abudu of the ACLU Voting Rights Project, Larry Dupuis and Karyn Rotker of the ACLU of Wisconsin and Heather Johnson and Karen Cunningham of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.

If you or someone you know will be disfranchised by Wisconsin’s photo ID requirements at the polls in 2012, tell us the story.

Download our feedback form online and send it to the ACLU of Wisconsin.

Read a copy of the complaint online.

Help support the civil liberties news and opinion you get on Forward for Liberty. Join the ACLU of Wisconsin today or make a tax-deductible donation to the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation. Your contribution keeps Forward for Liberty, action alerts via email and social media, and other nonpartisan watchdog efforts going.

Troubles with Requiring Photo ID to Vote – Tell Your Story to the ACLU of Wisconsin

17 Nov

Starting in February, all Wisconsin voters are going to have to show photo ID to vote. For most voters, that means they have to show an unexpired Wisconsin state ID card or driver’s license. A few other kinds of photo identification cards, like some tribal, college and military IDs, unexpired U.S. passport, or a recent certificate of naturalization, will also be acceptable. Read more about what is in the law on the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board’s Voter Photo ID law webpage (Spanish, DMV).

But the ACLU of Wisconsin is hearing from otherwise eligible voters who are not included among those who have one of the qualifying IDs to vote. Will you or someone you know not be able to get a photo IDs to vote in 2012?

People who cannot get a photo ID to vote in Wisconsin under the new law may include people who:

  • were born in Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Puerto Rico, and do not have a certified copy of their birth certificate (For people born in Puerto Rico, the copy must be from October 2010 or later);
  • were never issued a birth certificate (for example, because they were born at home in a state like Mississippi, Alabama or Tennessee), or for some reason other than lack of money they can’t get a birth certificate (for example, they don’t have the kind of ID they need to get a birth certificate from the state where they were born);
  • are having trouble getting a qualifying photo ID because they have little or no income so they can’t afford the papers they need to get the ID such as a birth certificate, marriage certificate, or certificates of U.S. citizenship or naturalization;
  • are having trouble getting a qualifying photo ID because they cannot obtain a Social Security Card due to lack of proof of identity—and in a Catch-22—have no other way to prove identity to the DMV;
  • are having trouble getting a photo ID because they don’t have transportation to get to the DMV office, or they work during all the hours their local DMV office is open;
  • do not have a regular home address or they do not have proof of their address in their name like a utility bill or paycheck. For example, they are homeless, they live in a shelter, they live in someone else’s house and don’t have bills in their name, or they move often and don’t have a regular address;
  • are a person with a disability that will make it very hard for them to get to a DMV office to get their photo ID, it is hard for them to leave their home, or they are unable to sign their name sometimes or always;
  • are a student at a Wisconsin technical college and they don’t have a Wisconsin driver’s license, state ID card, U.S. passport, or tribal or military ID;
  • or are a student at any Wisconsin college or university, they have a driver’s license from another state (but don’t have a car or drive regularly in Wisconsin) and do not have a passport or tribal or military ID.

If you or if someone you know has a story to share about barriers to obtaining a photo ID to vote in Wisconsin, contact the ACLU of Wisconsin at  (414) 272 4032, ext. 216 or email your story to  inquiries@aclu wi.org.

Please remember that the details of the voter ID law, particularly for students, may still change between now and elections in 2012. The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation and the Wisconsin Election Protection Coalition will provide more voting rights information in the future. But if you or someone you know falls into a category described above, we still want to hear your story.

Find more on voting rights in Wisconsin on the ACLU of Wisconsin’s Voting Rights webpage, including fliers to download and share with people in your community who may be disfranchised by the new photo ID requirement to vote.