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Advocacy Group Says Voters Will Overcome Latest Obstacle in WI

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MILWAUKEE -- Republican leaders in Wisconsin secured a victory ahead of the November election after an appeals court reinstated various voting restrictions. Despite the decision, an advocacy group says it remains undeterred in helping disenfranchised voters.

The federal 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that GOP lawmakers did not attempt to discriminate against minority voters when they pushed for the restrictions in previous election cycles.

Shauntay Nelson, Wisconsin state director of the group All Voting is Local, called the ruling "disheartening," because of health risks associated with the pandemic. But she added that it's an opportunity to continue educating Wisconsin voters who are routinely affected by these actions. "We will continue to work with our election officials as best as we can to encourage access to early voting, access to drop boxes," Nelson insisted.

The restrictions include reducing the time for early voting from six weeks to two; establishing a requirement that voters be Wisconsin residents for at least 28 days before an election; and preventing voters from having absentee ballots emailed or faxed to them.

In 2016, a lower court struck down the rules, saying they disproportionately affected minorities. Nelson acknowledged that it sometimes can be challenging to keep up with the many adjustments to the electoral process in a state like Wisconsin. But she said maintaining close contact with marginalized voters can soften the blow when decisions like this are handed down. "We can find ways that work for individuals, or at least be a listening ear for some things that may be helpful or useful for voters in Wisconsin," she said.

Many activists have accused Wisconsin Republicans of voter suppression. However, as with similar election-law fights in other states, party leaders say their efforts are centered around preventing fraud and creating an even playing field. Wisconsin's controversial Voter-ID law wasn't central to this latest ruling, but the court did say college kids still can use expired student identification to cast their ballot.

Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Mike Moen is the Morning Edition producer and serves as a staff reporter for WNIJ. Every morning, he works with Dan Klefstad to bring listeners the latest Illinois news. He also works with the rest of the news staff on developing and producing in-depth stories. Mike is a Minnesota native who likes movies, history, and baseball. When most people hear his last name, they assume he is 100-percent Scandinavian. But, believe it or not, he is mostly German.
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