One Wisconsin Institute, Inc. v. Thomsen

490 F. Supp. 3d 1338 (2020)

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One Wisconsin Institute, Inc. v. Thomsen

United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin
490 F. Supp. 3d 1338 (2020)

Facts

Under Wisconsin law, voters were required to present an official photo identification in order to vote (the photo-ID law). Following challenges to the constitutionality of the photo-ID law, Wisconsin implemented a safety-valve procedure, the Wisconsin ID petition process (IDPP), to allow eligible voters who were unable to obtain a traditional photo ID, such as a driver’s license, to obtain a free photo ID valid for voting in Wisconsin. Voters were typically unable to obtain traditional photo IDs due to missing or destroyed vital records. Shortly before the November 2016 election, One Wisconsin Institute, Inc. (OWI) sued Wisconsin election officials, including Mark Thomsen (collectively, Wisconsin) (defendants) to challenge the constitutionality of the IDPP, arguing that the IDPP was so difficult to navigate that it imposed an unreasonable burden on the right to vote. Because the 2016 election was imminent, the district court issued a temporary order requiring Wisconsin (1) to issue receipts to all IDPP applicants that would serve as valid IDs for the 2016 election and (2) to conduct an outreach campaign to inform and educate voters about the IDPP. In 2020, the Seventh Circuit ordered the district court to take a fresh look at the IDPP. Wisconsin moved to dismiss, arguing that the IDPP was not unreasonably burdensome because it only required voters to visit the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to submit an IDPP petition and because the receipts voters received after filing an IDPP petition could be used as a valid voter ID until the petition was processed. OWI challenged and sought a preliminary injunction, arguing that the IDPP was unreasonably burdensome because the IDPP often took months, if not years, to issue IDs to eligible voters.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Peterson, J.)

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