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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Issue of the Week: J.B. Van Hollen's Frivolous Lawsuit

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Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is wasting the state's precious time and resources by appealing the injunctions against the new voter ID requirements.

Two judges have now decided that the Republican-backed law presents too many barriers for voting, would disenfranchise more than 300,000 eligible voters and violates the Wisconsin Constitution, which protects the right to vote.

Last week, Dane County Circuit Court Judge David Flanagan issued a permanent injunction against implementing the law, pretty much guaranteeing that the voter ID requirements will not be in place for this fall's elections.

Flanagan made a clear case for the injunction in his 20-page order. He noted that one of the experts hired by the state to support the voter ID, Peter Morrison, "has not been shown to possess sufficient training or experiences to prepare or to offer reliable expert testimony" on Wisconsin's voter ID requirements. Yet other experts credibly testified that 333,276 eligible voters lacked acceptable ID to vote under the new provisions.

The judge also wrote that investigations by the Milwaukee Police Department, county prosecutors, the state Department of Justice and Van Hollen's own task force failed to produce "a prosecution of a voter fraud violation that would have been prevented by the voter ID requirements" the Republicans passed last year. In other words, voter IDs are a solution to a problem that doesn't exist—voter fraud.

Even worse, the voter ID requirements violate the Wisconsin Constitution's protection of the right to vote. State lawmakers can only pass laws relating to voting and elections in very limited areas, and the voter ID law is way outside of those boundaries.

Yet Van Hollen is pushing ahead with the appeal and is trying to get the Republican-friendly majority on the state Supreme Court to disenfranchise more than 300,000 eligible voters and create a radical interpretation of the state constitution.

How frivolous is this appeal? The state Supreme Court already refused to review the cases. But Van Hollen is hoping that his utterly political, terribly wasteful suit will succeed, eventually, so that those who bear the brunt of the provisions—low-income voters, the elderly, minority voters and students—will be disenfranchised in Wisconsin.

An attorney general needs to put the well-being of the state above partisan politics, so Van Hollen should refocus his energy on prosecuting crimes that actually do exist. Allegations of voter fraud are merely an excuse to support the disenfranchisement of voters who tend to vote for Democrats.

Heroes of the Week
: Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful Volunteers

Established in 1983, Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful Inc. (KGMB) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting viable solutions for environmental issues in the greater Milwaukee area. Dedicated volunteers help KGMB (1313 W. Mount Vernon Ave.) successfully provide many educational and community service opportunities, including its annual Great American Cleanup and environmental programs such as "Greening Milwaukee," which specifically focuses on increasing the tree canopy in southeast Wisconsin through education, awareness and advice. KGMB also offers a question hotline (414-272-5462) and educational outreach classes and activities for all ages.

"We can always use volunteers," said Joe Wilson, executive director of KGMB. "Our success begins with the actions of individuals. It can start with an educational event, a litter cleanup, recycling drive, graffiti paint-out, planting a community garden or planting just one tree."

Volunteers are vital to KGMB and are always needed for ongoing and special events. In addition, KGMB is seeking major funding and in-kind support for its recently launched Teach Responsible Environmental Education House (TREE House) project, which offers after-school interactive educational programs for children. For more information about donating or volunteering opportunities, visit www.kgmb.org or contact Emily Brown at 414-272-5462 (ext. 105).
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