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Federal judge tosses lawsuit challenging absentee witness signature rule • Wisconsin Examiner

A federal judge this week dismissed a lawsuit from Democratic allies seeking to block Wisconsin’s law requiring voters to secure a witness signature when casting an absentee ballot. 

Four Wisconsin voters, represented by the national firm Elias Law Group, filed the lawsuit in October, arguing the requirement violates the Voting Rights Act and disenfranchises voters. 

Under state law, any absentee ballot without a witness signature must be rejected. 

The voters said that due to age, health and regular international travel, the signature requirement is an obstacle to voting, stating the signature “is, in itself, a concrete and particularized burden on Plaintiffs’ legally protected right to vote.” 

The VRA prevents states from requiring a voter to “prove his qualifications by the voucher of registered voters or members of any other class.” 

In the lawsuit, the voters also said the signature requirement violates the Civil Rights Act, which protects against disenfranchisement over trivial errors that have nothing to do with their eligibility to vote. 

Judge James Peterson ruled that the challenge to the law was suspect because it has been on the books for decades without complaint. 

“No one before now has contended in a lawsuit that the witness requirement was invalid under federal law,” he wrote. “The long silence is telling.”

He also wrote that the voters hadn’t proved the requirement isn’t allowed under federal law — even though he added that the state hadn’t proved the requirement effectively prevents fraud.

“Regardless of the challenges plaintiffs face, they have not shown that either the Voting Rights Act of 1965 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits a state from requiring absentee voters to prepare their ballot in front of a witness,” Peterson concluded. “Neither side cites any evidence regarding the effectiveness of the witness requirement in preventing abuses or the number of citizens who cannot vote because of the requirement. But regardless of how effective or burdensome the requirement is, the federal laws at issue in this case simply do not apply to it.”

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originally published at https%3A%2F%2Fwisconsinexaminer.com%2Fbriefs%2Ffederal-judge-tosses-lawsuit-challenging-absentee-witness-signature-rule%2F by Henry Redman

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