May 25, 2016

Ohio Voter Suppression Law Held Unlawful, Opinion Points Way for Wisconsin Voting Rights

Black folks just love the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments
of the United States Constitution. But will they ever get that
Republican Party-enacted state laws against voting are really
for the greater good of the country?
Thursday, May 26, 2106 is the last day of trial in One Wisconsin v. Nichol, a major voting rights case challenging Republican voter suppression laws in Wisconsin.

Yesterday, a voting rights case in Ohio, signaled what could be a major development for voting rights federal litigation, in favor of the voters against Republican efforts to obstruct voters held in disfavor by Republicans state legislators and governors.

The Ohio case is Ohio Organizing Collaborative v. Jon Hustad (Case No. 2:15-cv-1802) heard by U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson who issued his 120-page opinion finding a voter suppression law blocking an in-person early voting ritual in Ohio, Golden Week, to be in violation of the United States Constitution and Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Right Act is a law first passed in 1965 to enforce the 15th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

The Ohio case is heard in the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Writes Judge Watson:

EIP [early in-person] voting in homogenous black blocks was 4.316 times higher than homogenous white blocks in 2008… 4.4476 times higher in 2012… usage rates of Golden Week specifically were far higher among African Americans than among whites in both 2008 and 2012… In other words, in 2008, for example, ‘the rate of voting early in person during golden week is three and a half times greater in homogenous black blocks than homogenous white blocks.’

One Wisconsin v. Nichol 

In the Wisconsin voting rights case, a series of voter suppression laws enacted into law by Wisconsin Republicans since 2011 are challenged as violative of the Voting Rights Act and the United States Constitution.

Argue the plaintiffs, One Wisconsin Institute and Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund, as noted at Election Law at Moritz:

Count I: Violations of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act
Count II: Undue Burdens on the Right to Vote in Violation of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment
Count III: Disparate Treatment of Voters without a Rational Basis in Violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment
Count IV: Partisan Fencing in Violation of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment
Count V: Abridgment or Denial of the Right to Vote on the Basis of Race in Violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Fifteenth Amendment
Count VI: Abridgment or Denial of the Right to Vote on the Basis of Age in Violation of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment

Wisconsin Republicans

Wisconsin Republicans in the politicized Wisconsin Department of Justice argue, (among other points), that because Wisconsin's photo voter ID law for example is popular in their view, it is also constitutional, a bizarre argument used in two federal voting rights cases by Wisconsin DoJ Republicans, (Mal Contends).

Wisconsin Republicans also present protestations at trial by municipal clerks—representing white, Republican suburbs in Milwaukee's hyper-segregated greater urban area—who said  Republican-enacted election laws help the adminstration of elections. The clerks did not explain how or why.

Wisconsin Republicans also argue that the high voter turn-out in the April 5 Presidential Primary disconfirms the voting rights advocates' challenge of GOP-enacted election laws. DoJ Republicans suggest laws designed to suppress the vote of the non-Republican-voting electorate should be judged on their effect on total voter turn-out and not individual classes of voters such as Latinos, blacks, and college students, a talking point rather than a solid legal argument, (MediaMatters). Consider the hypothetical. If most voters were able to pay a $10 fee to vote, would the successful overcoming of the $10 burden mean that such a hypothetical law is not a violation of the 24th Amendment outlawing polling taxes?

The vast minorities of blacks in Wisconsin live in Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin, (Wisconsin Dept. of Heath Services), or as Paul Ryan and fellow Republicans like to point out: The "urban" areas.

In Wisconsin, urban means Milwaukee, Kenosha and Racine counties. Along with Dane County, these four counties comprise some one-third of Wisconsin's 2012 presidential election voting total.

The GOP stops enough 'urban' people voting, and they win.

Republican-enacted laws cut early voting from 30 days before Election Day to 12 days, cut the hours during which voters may cast early voting, (in-person, absentee voting), and restrict early voting to one location per municipality, in the name of uniformity. The city of Milwaukee with a population of 599,164 can only have one early voting location, just like the village of Lannon with a population of 1,092. Most blacks in Wisconsin are concentrated in Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin, and it's clear what Republicans aim to achieve: Voter suppression.

If U.S. District Judge James Peterson adopts the logic of Judge Watson, it is likely Peterson will find the Republican laws attacking early voting disproportionately affect minority voters, (2013 Wisconsin Act 146), for example.

The bench trial is scheduled to conclude on Thursday, May 26 and is being heard by U.S. District Judge James Peterson.

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