By Mrinal Gokhale
Mayor Tom Barrett expressed contentment with Judge James Peterson and Judge Lynn Adelman’s decision to extend Wisconsin voting hours to evenings and weekends.
This will also add provisions to the voter ID law for those who cannot obtain a photo ID.
In 2014, in-person absentee voting hours in Wisconsin were restricted to regular business hours during weekday, and weekend hours were eliminated all together.
On the last Friday of July 2016, Judge Peterson deemed these restrictions intentionally discriminatory towards African Americans, and declared that for the November election voting hours to re-extend to evening and weekends. Starting at 11:30 a.m. at the Frank P. Zeidler Municipal Building, Barrett spoke and was joined by community leaders from Citizens Action of Wisconsin, ACLU of Wisconsin, One Wisconsin Now and Wisconsin League of Women Voters. Barrett said that eliminating weekend voting hours and requiring photo ID laws is discriminatory and makes it harder on Democrats to vote.
“The restricted hours hit low income people that can’t make it on Election Day because they can’t take off from work or find childcare,” said Mayor Barrett.
He also said that Attorney General Brad Schimmel should “stop making the rules go back and forth,” as to avoid confusing voters.
Anita Johnson, community organizer of Wisconsin Citizen Action, elaborated on the law that requires Wisconsin residents to show a photo ID at the polls.
She stated that the law violates 14th Amendment rights. The recent July ruling allows for voters some wiggle room if they absolutely cannot obtain a photo ID for reasons such as lack of transportation, disability or work schedule.
Under this affidavit voters must declare they are who they say they are, and are liable to perjury if proven otherwise.
Later in the week on Aug. 10, an appeals court put the affidavit on hold until further notice.
Melanie Ramey of the Wisconsin Women League of Voters spoke last, saying that the league has been traveling with a van throughout Wisconsin to register college students, minorities and the elderly.
“It’s not uncommon for African American churches to take church members to vote after church services on Sunday,” Ramey said. She added that this concept would be brought back to Wisconsin in November when the new law goes into effect.
Mayor Barrett said that the new voting hours are not yet known, but an announcement will be made when the extended hours and dates become official.