The Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF), a leading nonpartisan nonprofit organization working to enfranchise and educate young people in the electoral process, and Common Cause Wisconsin, the state’s largest nonpartisan political reform advocacy organization with more than 16,000 members and activists in every county and corner of the state, joined as amici in a critical legal battle to protect the voting rights of students in Wisconsin. Yael Bromberg, Esq. of Bromberg Law LLC and Attorney Elizabeth M. Pierson of Law Forward filed the amicus brief on behalf of the organizations.
The case, Werner v. Dankmeyer (No. 22-cv-555), centers around a challenge to students’ right to vote from their campus addresses in La Crosse County. The plaintiff in the case alleges that her equal protection rights were violated when students at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse exercised their right to vote from their college address, a well-established federal and state constitutional right. The plaintiff is asking the Court to create radical barriers to college students voting in places where they live, work, and study. The Andrew Goodman Foundation and Common Cause Wisconsin strongly oppose the relief requested by the plaintiff, as it would violate the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, state constitutional law, and related statutes.
“A healthy democracy must include the voices of young people; that means ensuring students across the country have access to the ballot where they live, work, and study. At AGF we believe campuses are places where young people develop the habits of active and lifelong citizenship,” says Rashawn Davis, Executive Director of The Andrew Goodman Foundation. “Leveraging our expertise and resources through our national Student Vote Choice campaign, AGF is helping students access the ballot according to their preference and the rule of law. Whether voting in-person at accessible polling locations, by mail, or from their campus address, students have the right to choose how to vote, just as all other voters in a free democratic society.”
“Since 2011, when the Wisconsin Legislature enacted into law one of the most extreme and restrictive voter photo ID laws in the nation, this state has been one of the most difficult and burdensome for public and private college and university students, lacking a Wisconsin driver’s license, to be able to cast a ballot and have their vote counted,” says Jay Heck, Executive Director of Common Cause Wisconsin. “This insidious attempt to further suppress the votes of legally qualified and eligible voters attending college or university in this state is not just unconstitutional, but it is profoundly unfair, undemocratic, and unconscionable as well.”
The amicus brief, filed on behalf of AGF and Common Cause Wisconsin, underscores the importance of safeguarding voting rights and ensuring equal access to the ballot box for all eligible citizens. The Democratic National Committee has also joined the case as an Intervenor-Defendant, further demonstrating the significance and implications of this issue for voting rights nationwide. The ability of students to vote from their campus addresses is not only an essential exercise of their democratic rights but also a crucial step in fostering civic engagement. In an inclusive democracy, every voice matters. Preventing students from voting from their campus addresses is a direct attack on their right to participate in the democratic process.
“Ratified 52 years ago, the Twenty-Sixth Amendment established a protected class – youth – and a protected classification – age – with regard to ballot access,” says Yael Bromberg, Esq. of Bromberg Law LLC, a legal scholar of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, and Rutgers Law School lecturer. “A central tenet from the ratification process, which was embraced across partisan lines with near-unanimity, was that youth political participation is critical for democracy. As the amicus brief sets out, in the decade following ratification, various clerks across the nation endeavored to prevent this class of 11 million new voters from voting from their campus residence. Those cynical efforts were repeatedly stopped by state and federal courts. We should be celebrating increased youth voting rates in Wisconsin and across the nation, not erecting new obstacles.”
“The Wisconsin Constitution offers strong protections of the right to vote, which extend to students and other young voters,” says Attorney Elizabeth M. Pierson of Law Forward. “Efforts to restrict youth voting rights violate Wisconsin’s most fundamental laws as well as our core democratic values. In Wisconsin as in America, we believe that every vote counts. Defending student and youth voters is core to Law Forward’s mission and we will keep working to preserve the constitutional freedom to vote.”
Amici thank Yael Bromberg, Esq. of Bromberg Law LLC and local counsel Elizabeth M. Pierson of Law Forward for their legal representation.
Jay Heck, Common Cause Wisconsin
Stephanie Miller, Law Forward
Yael Bromberg, Bromberg Law LLC
About The Andrew Goodman Foundation
The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s mission is to make young voices and votes a powerful force in democracy by training the next generation of leaders, engaging young voters, and challenging restrictive voter suppression laws. The organization is named after Andrew Goodman, a Freedom Summer volunteer and champion of equality and voting rights who was murdered, alongside James Earl Chaney and Michael Schwerner, by the KKK in 1964 while registering Black Americans to vote in Mississippi. To learn more, visit www.andrewgoodman.org.
About Common Cause Wisconsin
Common Cause Wisconsin (CCWI) is the state’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan citizen reform advocacy organization focusing on campaign finance, election and redistricting reform, and other issues concerning the promotion and maintenance of clean, open, and responsive government. Working directly with legislative leaders, political experts, other advocacy groups and the media, Common Cause Wisconsin holds their state government accountable, fighting to ensure that their elected officials serve the public interest, rather than powerful special interests. To learn more, visit www.commoncausewisconsin.org.
About Law Forward
Law Forward is a pro-democracy nonpartisan nonprofit organization using impact litigation, the administrative process, and public education to protect and advance Wisconsin’s fundamental democratic principles, and commitment to clean and open government. For more information, visit www.LawForward.org.