Early voting for November’s general election in Wisconsin could begin as soon as next month. But it can only happen if an appeals court under pressure from Gov. Scott Walker and other Republican leaders doesn’t put a hold a federal judge’s ruling that struck down a host of Wisconsin election laws, including limitations on early voting.
Among the election laws struck down by Judge James Peterson in July are limits on absentee and early voting, which the judge found unfairly benefited Republicans. Before the judge’s ruling, early voting was scheduled to begin Oct. 24 under a Republican measure.
A panel of GOP-appointed judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit recently stayed the decision of another federal judge to halt certain provisions of the state's photo ID law from being implemented in November. Whether the same court bows to Republican wishes and rushes to issue a stay on Peterson's ruling that lifts limits on early voting is anyone's guess.
Municipal clerks must set early voting dates, and some are moving forward on the timetable made possible by Peterson's ruling — but strongly opposed by Wisconsin Republicans.
By law, ballots have to be in the hands of clerks by Sept. 21, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission. The Madison city clerk’s office said early voting will begin Sept. 26, and Milwaukee Election Commission executive director Neil Albrecht told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he expects Milwaukee will follow a similar timeline.
“The law had been whittled down, so we’re working out the final details, but it will include multiple voting sites and weekend hours,” Albrecht said.
If Peterson's ruling is not put on hold by Republican judicial appointees, local elections officials will have a chance to set up voting stations at college campuses and other locations, rather than requiring people to come to the clerks’ offices to cast early ballots, as Republicans wish.
Walker, like other Republican governors around the nation, has enacted a host of voter restriction laws designed to make it more difficult for traditional Democratic constituencies to have access to the polls. The laws were created by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is primarily financed by the Koch brothers.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.