The Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit last Wednesday to expand voter access during the coronavirus pandemic.
Democrats bring the suit just weeks before the state of Wisconsin is scheduled to hold its presidential primary, and there are obvious concerns about voting mount during the COVID-19 situation.
“These steps are critical to ensuring that all Wisconsinites who wish to participate in the April 7 elections are able to do so,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.
Perez added: “Given the necessary measures taken by [Wisconsin] Governor Evers and public health officials in Wisconsin to limit the spread of the virus, it’s more important than ever that we expand access to voting, and increasing these necessary measures will help protect both public health and Wisconsinites’ right to participate in our democracy.”
The Democrats filed the lawsuit in hopes that they could force election officials in Wisconsin to extend voter registration – electronically and via U.S. mail registration – to April 3. In addition, they want to suspend the requirement of presenting copies of photo identification with absentee ballot requests and copies of proof of residency documents with voter registration requests.
They also hope to have the state extend its current deadline requiring absentee mail-in ballots to be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day to being postmarked by Election Day and received by municipal clerks’ offices within 10 days of the election.
“Nobody should have to choose between exposure to COVID-19 and disenfranchisement,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Ben Wikler said. “The court should immediately strike down the barriers to full participation in voting by mail. Our democracy depends on our ability to conduct free, safe, and fair elections, no matter what — even during a pandemic.”
The state of Wisconsin is a key battleground state in the 2020 presidential election. President Donald Trump won the state by less than 23,000 votes in 2016, which made him the first Republican to win the state since 1984. Democrats were trying to recoup that loss in the state by holding the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, and aggressively targeting voters there.
Earlier in the month, a conservative law firm requested the Wisconsin Supreme Court to immediately overturn an appeals court ruling that stopped the purging of more than 200,000 people from the state’s voter records. Democrats cried foul and said that the move was intended to make it more difficult for their voters to cast their ballots.
Wisconsin’s presidential primary is set for April 7, but the appeal does not ask for the court to act in time for that election. A state appeals court last month overturned an Ozaukee County judge’s ruling ordering the purge and dismissed the case, setting up this appeal.