Young Wisconsinites denied their voting rights, latest suit contends
Wisconsin's rules limiting student IDs at the polls are so strict they violate the constitutional right of young people to participate in democracy, a progressive group alleges in the latest lawsuit claiming voting rights violations in 2020 battleground states.
The suit, filed this week, asks the federal courts to block enforcement of the rules during the 2020 election, when the state's 10 electoral votes will be hotly contested. Last time, Donald Trump carried Wisconsin by less than 1 percentage point, breaking a seven-election winning streak for the Democratic nominees.
And suppression of the youth vote was a big reason why, the lawsuit alleges. It notes that while college-age turnout increased nationwide by at least 3 percent between 2012 and 2016, that same figure across Wisconsin declined at least 5 percent and in some parts of the state more than 11 percent.
The suit is one of at least a dozen filed this fall by progressive and civil rights groups alleging that improper barriers to voting have been raised in nine states, most of them with Republican governments but places where a Democratic nominee has the potential to compete next fall: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas.
The voter ID law at issue in Wisconsin was enacted in 2011 by an all-GOP power structure in Madison.
"While this decline is alarming, it is not surprising," the suit says. "It was precisely what the Wisconsin Legislature and former governor Scott Walker intended" when they enacted the voter ID law.
The claim was filed against the Wisconsin Elections Committee by the Andrew Goodman Foundation, which advocates for expanded political power for young people. It was created by Goodman's parents to honor their son, who was one of the three civil rights workers killed by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi in 1964.
The law allows a student to use a school ID as proof of identification at the polls only if it contains the issuance date, an expiration date no more than two years later and the holder's signature. Most IDs normally issued by Wisconsin colleges, universities and technical schools still do not meet those requirements.
The liberal super PAC Priorities USA estimates that without the law an additional 200,000 ballots would have been cast in the state, which Trump won by just 23,000 votes.
The suit asks the court to declare the ID law unconstitutional and block Wisconsin officials from enforcing it.
"What we continue to see in Wisconsin and other states around the country is that as student voter participation increases so do state-sponsored efforts to restrict their access to the ballot box," said David Goodman, president of the foundation.
The suit says the restrictions violate the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 nationally in 1971.
A separate and much broader challenge to Wisconsin's election voter IDs laws is before the 7th US. Circuit Court of Appeals.
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In a partisan vote on an issue that once was bipartisan, House Democrats pushed through legislation Friday that would restore a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act passed the House 228-187, with all Democrats voting for the bill and all but one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voting against it.
The bill faces virtually no chance of being considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Broadcasters are pushing back against the Federal Communications Commission after the agency made clear it wants broader public disclosure regarding TV political ads.
With the 2020 election less than a year away and political TV ads running more frequently, the FCC issued a lengthy order to clear up any ambiguities licensees of TV stations had regarding their responsibility to record information about ad content and sponsorship. In response, a dozen broadcasting stations sent a petition to the agency, asking it to consider a more narrow interpretation of the law.
This dispute over disclosure rules for TV ads comes at a time when digital ads are subject to little regulation. Efforts to apply the same rules for TV, radio and print advertising across the internet have been stymied by Congress's partisanship and the Federal Election Commission being effectively out of commission.
Laura Williamson says her career was shaped by growing up in North Carolina, which she describes as being historically at the center of the best and worst of American democracy. She spent seven years working with young people at progressive groups and got a master's in public affairs at Princeton before joining Demos in the summer of 2018. The think tank aims to combat "threats to democracy, racial equity and economic inclusion" and as a senior policy analyst she's focused on voter registration, voting rights, money in politics and civic participation. Her answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
What's democracy's biggest challenge, in 10 words or less?
Abolishing all disenfranchisement schemes and achieving an inclusive, multiracial democracy.
Describe your very first civic engagement.
Testifying at the North Carolina General Assembly against cuts to funding for vocational education. The woodworking classes I took throughout high school were among the most formative of my public school education, so as a high school senior I advocated for their continued funding to lawmakers in Raleigh.
What was your biggest professional triumph?
It's actually a triumph-in-progress. At Demos, we are privileged to work with powerful grassroots leaders redefining democracy and pushing the reform conversation across the country. Alongside these Inclusive Democracy Project leaders we are dreaming and scheming about what it would take to build a truly inclusive democracy — without limiting ourselves by what's perceived as politically feasible or reasonable — and to chart a radical reform agenda that meets the challenge. Our agenda is in progress and, like all real victories, is benefitting from the efforts of many smart and talented people. Stay tuned, it'll be ready for public consumption soon!
And your most disappointing setback?
They have always come after I've not listened well enough, have brought too much ego and taken things too personally, or not followed my gut about when a process or decision felt off.
How does your identity influence the way you go about your work?
I'm from North Carolina, where we pioneered multiracial, pro-justice fusion politics during Reconstruction, civil disobedience during the civil rights movement and franchise-expanding voting reforms since the 1990s. More recently, we have also been home to the vanguard of voter suppression and other democracy stifling tactics since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. I stand on the shoulders of giants and against the abdication of our identity as democracy leaders. I also do this work because, as a white woman, I know the exclusion of entire communities from our democracy was — and is still — led by my people and, often, in my name. I work every day to undo that legacy and ongoing reality.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
Learn to simultaneously practice patience and show up with urgency in all the work I do.
Create a new flavor for Ben & Jerry's.
Impeaches and Cream
West Wing or Veep?
West Wing — for the sometimes-too-earnest belief that government can be a force for good, not the centrist politics!
What's the last thing you do on your phone at night?
Turn on do not disturb.
What is your deepest, darkest secret?
I'm deeply terrified by karaoke.
Lightman is a professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University.
With the 2020 election less than a year away, Facebook is under fire from presidential candidates, lawmakers, civil rights groups and even its own employees to provide more transparency on political ads and potentially stop running them altogether.
Meanwhile, Twitter has announced that it will not allow any political ads on its platform.
Modern-day online ads use sophisticated tools to promote political agendas with a high degree of specificity.
I have closely studied how information propagates through social channels and its impact on political messaging and advertising.
Looking back at the history of mass media and political ads in the national narrative, I think it's important to focus on how TV advertising, which is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission, differs fundamentally with the world of social media.