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Category: Wisconsin (page 1 of 3)

All GAB, No Action

By: George Nwanze

There is an old Latin saying “quis custodiet ipsos custodes” or “who will watch the watchers.” This saying has been invoked countless times over the centuries to suggest that to those who great power is conferred, it must be tempered with oversight. In the state of Wisconsin, however, it is not readily apparent who is behind the wheel of the state’s election process. Starting in 2008, Wisconsin sought to venture in a bold new direction in campaign finance law with its creation of a nonpartisan board, the Government Accountability Board (GAB), that would be tasked with regulation of campaign finance in the state. The GAB had its impetus in the 2001 campaign scandal in which staffers in the state legislature impermissibly used state funds to engage in partisan campaigning. In response to this scandal—in which both sides were accused of misappropriation of public funds–the first act of the 2007 legislative session called for the creation of a state agency, a combination of the state’s ethics and election boards, that would be charged with election supervision.

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Why Go to Wisconsin?

By: George Nwanze

While Gil v. Whitford, the Wisconsin gerrymandering case presently before the Supreme Court, may be absorbing all the legal intrigue, one previously litigated issue involving Wisconsin’s elections has gone unnoticed. Particularly, the state’s voter identification laws and the suppressive effects it has had on voter turnout.

In the aftermath of the 2016 election, perhaps the most common retort of the electoral upset was, “Wisconsin should have gone to Hillary Clinton.” Wisconsin was typically viewed as a reliable Democratic state in presidential elections, as the last time Wisconsin went for a Republican for president was in 1984. However, this assertion was more of a visceral reaction to what many view as a poor political decision, rather than something that the data actual bears out. Fortunately, a recently released study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWM), sheds some light on whether it actually mattered if “she went to Wisconsin.”

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Wis-communication: Trouble in the Badger State

Despite a July 2016 ruling from a federal District Court invalidating many provisions of Wisconsin’s controversial package of voter ID laws, problems persist for many voters seeking to register to vote, or to procure an ID that will allow them to vote. Reports that certain Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices, which have the authority to issue valid voter IDs, have not fully complied with the federal court’s order continue to crop up.

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De-Clawing a Badger: Western District of Wisconsin Softens State Voter ID Law

In a sweeping opinion handed down in late July, United States District Judge James Peterson struck a substantial number of voting provisions from the books in Wisconsin. The opinion, which spans 119 pages, found that multiple voter restrictions enacted by the state legislature were motivated by a desire to advantage incumbent and aspiring Republican officials. The court first rejected the plaintiffs’ facial challenge, relying on a 7th Circuit decision which held that even if some voters have trouble complying with the law, and those voters tend to be racial minorities, the law is not necessarily facially unconstitutional. This initial victory in preserving the overall voter ID law marks the extent of the defendants’ success in the case.

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Crafting Competitive Criteria: The Institution is Critical

By: Benjamin Williams

With the rapid increase in political polarization in recent years, momentum is building in several states to dramatically alter the redistricting process after the 2020 Census. True to the idea of the states being laboratories of democracy, there have been state constitutional amendments in Florida, partisan gerrymandering challenges in Wisconsin, Maryland, and North Carolina, redistricting criteria bills in Virginia, as well as a myriad of racial gerrymandering challenges. But the new idea—based on a blend of Iowa-style and Florida-style redistricting—is to create stringent criteria for legislatures to follow. That idea is simple enough: if the redistricting body (legislature, independent redistricting commission, college students, etc.) is forced to follow strict criteria when redistricting, the result will be “better” districts that aren’t ugly and are more competitive. But does the data actually bear this out?

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Wisconsin: After Frank v. Walker

Wisconsin: after Frank v. Walker, a new case — One Wisconsin Institute v. Nichol — was filed on May 29th, 2015 to challenge Wisconsin’s election laws again.

By: Lisa Zhang

In a recent complaint filed by One Wisconsin Institute, Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund, and six Wisconsin residents, plaintiffs challenged several Wisconsin voting provisions, including 2011 Wisconsin Act 23. I previously discussed the Equal Protection challenges made in this case in an earlier post. Below is an analysis of the case’s challenge under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).

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Wisconsin: One Wisconsin Institute v. Nichol

By: Lisa Zhang

One Wisconsin institute, Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund, and six Wisconsin residents filed a complaint against a series of provisions that Wisconsin has made since 2011 to its voting and election laws.

Interestingly, Wisconsin’s election laws just withstood a challenge that had lasted for four years. On March 23, 2015, the Supreme Court denied the petition for certiorari of Frank v. Walker. In Frank, plaintiffs challenged 2011 Wisconsin Act 23, which specifies limited acceptable forms of photo IDs, under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the district court found it in violation of both the 14th Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The 7th Circuit reversed the judgement on the ground that Wisconsin’s Voter ID law does not differ in ways that matter under the analysis in Crawford v. Marion.

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John Doe is Dead – Wisconsin Supreme Court Denies Motion to Reconsider

By Dan Sinclair

It appears Wisconsin’s controversial “John Doe” investigations into conservative political groups is finally at an end. Again.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court Wednesday reaffirmed an earlier ruling that halted the investigations, declaring the acting special prosecutor has no grounds to continue investigation of groups suspected of illegally coordinating with the recall election campaigns of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

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Wisconsin Senate Passes Campaign Finance, Election Board Overhauls

By Dan Sinclair

In a lengthy session stretching from last Friday night to the early hours of Saturday morning, the Wisconsin Senate voted to approve a pair of bills making significant changes to the state’s campaign finance laws and election oversight. The latter provision entailed an official plan to replace Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board (GAB), a nonpartisan elections and ethics board. Republican legislators had made both issues a priority in recent months, with last weekend’s vote coming less than a month after legislators held a hearing to propose sweeping changes.

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Wisconsin Government Accountability Board

 By: Dan Sinclair

In 2008, in the wake of a legislative caucus scandal and partisan rulings by the state’s Elections Board, Wisconsin announced the formation of a new non-partisan ethics and elections agency. The Government Accountability Board (GAB), formed from the merger of the Elections Board and Wisconsin’s Ethics Board, was intended to provide an independent body capable of investigating criminal and civil violations of the state’s ethics and election laws free from the partisan and financial pitfalls that wracked its predecessors.

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