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UW-ELECTIONDAY-APRIL-01-04052016163748 (copy)

Downtown residents vote at the Central Library on April 5, 2016.

PHOTO BY SAIYNA BASHIR

Plaintiffs in the federal case against a series of voting policies signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker between 2011 and 2015 are appealing a ruling that went largely in their favor.

Lawyers representing One Wisconsin Institute, Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund and a group of individual voters filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday.

Their reasons for appealing are unclear, though a press release issued Tuesday focuses heavily on portions of U.S. District Judge James Peterson's ruling related to the state's voter ID law.

Peterson found a series of voting changes signed into law by Walker over the last five years to be unconstitutional, but did not overturn the state's photo identification requirement.

"Judge Peterson was clear about the discriminatory intent by Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans in passing laws to disenfranchise legal voters based on their race or partisan affiliation," said One Wisconsin Institute executive director Scot Ross. "Friday’s decision was a huge victory for Wisconsin voters and we are committed to fully protecting the right to vote from partisan politicians like Gov. Walker."

In a 119-page decision issued Friday afternoon, Peterson wrote: "The evidence in this case casts doubt on the notion that voter ID laws foster integrity and confidence. The Wisconsin experience demonstrates that a preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement, which undermine rather than enhance confidence in elections, particularly in minority communities.

"To put it bluntly, Wisconsin’s strict version of voter ID law is a cure worse than the disease."

Laws that limited in-person absentee voting to one location, limited early voting hours and eliminated weekend voting are unconstitutional, Peterson ruled. A 2013 law limiting hours for in-person absentee voting "intentionally discriminates on the basis of race," he wrote.

Peterson, who was appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama in 2014 in a move praised by Wisconsin Sens. Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin, also overturned laws that increased the residency requirement for voters from 10 days to 28 days, prohibited distributing absentee ballots by fax or email and required "dorm lists" used as proof of residence to include citizenship information.

The judge also overturned a provision of the voter ID law banning the use of expired but otherwise qualifying student IDs at the polls.

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Also addressed in Peterson's ruling was the state's ID petition process, or IDPP — the system qualified voters use to obtain a free ID from the state. The lawsuit argued the IDPP is ineffective and has failed minority groups in particular.

Peterson found the system does not require "wholesale invalidation," but ordered several changes to it.

Laws left untouched by Peterson's ruling include provisions eliminating straight-ticket voting, statewide special registration deputies and the use of corroboration for registration.

Department of Justice spokesman Johnny Koremenos said last week the agency was reviewing and analyzing the court's "lengthy order," but based on an initial reading, planned to appeal it to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The plaintiffs preempted that move on Tuesday. 

Also this week, the DOJ filed a motion in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals seeking an emergency stay in a separate voting laws case in which a federal judge ruled that Wisconsin voters without proper ID can vote using an affidavit.

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.