The fate of a lawsuit challenging several changes in Wisconsin election laws over the past five years is now in the hands of a federal judge, after closing arguments were made in the case Thursday morning in Madison.
A pair of liberal advocacy groups claim about a dozen laws passed by Republicans since 2011, which include the state’s voter ID law and restrictions on early voting, were designed to suppress votes in segments of the population that tend to lean Democratic. The case was the subject of a lengthy trial earlier this spring, which saw a long line of experts and those who claim they were impacted by the provisions testifying in court.
Scot Ross, executive director of the liberal One Wisconsin Institute, contends the changes are illegal because they use the law to keep people from voting based on factors such as their minority status or their age. “I think that our side made its case that the Republicans intended to disenfranchise minorities and young people with their over-reaching and endless attacks on voter rights over the course of the last five years,” Ross said.
AUDIO: Scot Ross explains the reasoning behind the lawsuit (:57)
The state Department of Justice argued there’s no evidence to show the changes have actually suppressed turnout though. Speaking in court Thursday, Assistant Attorney General Clay Kawski said believing the laws have had a cumulative effect on voters requires “a lot of speculation.”
U.S. District Judge James Peterson seemed to echo those concerns, while also noting that the plaintiffs had laid out a “decent case” during the course of the trial. Still, Peterson questioned whether the overall changes have had a dramatic effect on voters in either positive or negative way.
Peterson is expected to issue a ruling by the end of July.