- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014
Supreme Court asked to block Wisconsin voter law

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Opponents of Wisconsin’s voter photo identification law asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to take emergency action and block the requirement ahead of the Nov. 4 election, arguing there isn’t enough time to implement the new rules.

The request comes less than five weeks before an election involving the closely watched race between Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who supports the law, and Democratic challenger Mary Burke. State elections officials have been scrambling to prepare since the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that the law should be in effect while the court considers the latest legal challenge.

The groups behind the lawsuit, The American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project, argue that the 2011 law is unconstitutional, in part because it unfairly burdens poor and minority voters who may not have valid IDs. The law hasn’t been enforced since the February 2012 primary because of legal challenges, and opponents argue that enforcing it with such short notice will create chaos at the polls and disenfranchise voters.

“There is no compelling reason for election officials to re-engineer restrictive voting rules so close to an election,” said Penda D. Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project, a national racial justice organization. “In a democracy, there can be no moral justification for election officials to request, and the courts to sanction, this sort of manipulation of voting rules.”

Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a staunch defender of the rules, said the request was “surprising and disappointing.” He said the ACLU was changing its position, saying the group has long argued that the law shouldn’t be changed so close to an election.

“Apparently they’ve abandoned that view and are no longer concerned about voter confusion,” Van Hollen said.

But the ACLU said it’s against requiring photo IDs, a law that was in effect only for one low-turnout 2012 primary before being blocked in the courts. Imposing the requirements now would fuel “voter confusion and election chaos,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.

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Group sues state over campaign coordination

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A conservative group and ally of Gov. Scott Walker filed a federal lawsuit Thursday asking that a Wisconsin law limiting coordination between third-party organizations and political candidates be declared unconstitutional.

The issue of what constitutes illegal coordination between issue-advocacy groups and candidates is at the center of an investigation into Walker’s 2012 campaign and more than two dozen conservative groups.

Citizens for Responsible Government Advocates argued in its lawsuit - filed in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee - that the state cannot restrict groups like CRGA from coordinating with candidates. The lawsuit names members of the Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections, and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm as defendants.

State elections board spokesman Reid Magney had no comment.

The attorneys for CRGA also represent Wisconsin Club for Growth, which challenged in federal court the investigation into Walker’s campaign and at least 29 conservative groups as an unconstitutional free-speech violation. A federal appeals court last month overturned a ruling that stopped the investigation, but also said the issue needs to be resolved in state courts.

Despite that ruling, the investigation remains on hold because a judge overseeing it blocked the issuance of subpoenas. An appeal of that decision is pending in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa, who sided with Wisconsin Club for Growth in blocking the investigation in May, has been assigned to handle the new lawsuit challenging the campaign-coordination law.

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Homicide charges filed in double slaying in Berlin

BERLIN, Wis. (AP) - A Wisconsin man charged in the deaths of his estranged wife and her boyfriend initially denied going to her apartment the night the two were shot and killed, but later changed his story and told police he was there, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday.

Nicholas Tuinstra, 33, faces two counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the deaths of Melissa Tuinstra and Justin Daniels, both 28.

Bond for Nicholas Tuinstra was set at $1 million cash on Thursday. He remained jailed and is not to have contact with the victims’ families once released. His public defender did not immediately respond to a phone message for comment.

A pedestrian spotted Melissa Tuinstra lying outside of her building late Saturday night and called police. The responding officer found Daniels face down in the apartment’s doorway. Both had been shot from behind.

Melissa Tuinstra had filed for divorce days earlier. A neighbor told investigators that she overheard Nicholas Tuinstra arguing with someone on the phone in early September, around the time Melissa Tuinstra moved out of the couple’s house, and said he threatened to kill that person, the complaint states.

Tuinstra initially told police that he had never been to his estranged wife’s apartment. But on Tuesday, he told two officers that he wanted to fill in some gaps in his initial statement, according to the complaint. He said he went to his wife’s apartment after calling and exchanging text messages with her. Tuinstra told police he spoke to his wife in the hall while Daniels was standing in the doorway, and that Daniels wanted Melissa Tuinstra to come back inside.

Tuinstra told police he had given his wife a handgun about a week earlier to protect herself, and that he thought he heard a gun being cocked from inside the apartment the night he was there, the complaint states. Police did not find a gun in the apartment, at Tuinstra’s house or at his parents’ home, where he arrived at about 11 p.m. Saturday and spent the night.

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5 confirmed cases of enterovirus in Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - State health officials say the number of confirmed cases of enterovirus 68 has climbed to five in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says most of the cases involve children, many with asthma or wheezing. Mild symptoms include a cough, runny nose, fever and muscle ache. The department did not have information on the ages, towns or genders of the five patients.

Across the country, four people who were infected with the severe respiratory illness have died, but health officials say it’s unclear what role the virus played in the deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta says the virus has sickened at least 500 people in 42 states.

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