The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty sued to disenfranchise thousands of Black and young voters ahead of the 2020 election.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, a conservative organization, has filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of five farmers against the Biden administration over a provision in the American Rescue Plan Act that provides relief to socially disadvantaged farmers.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a "socially disadvantaged" farmer as "a farmer or rancher who has been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudices because of their identity as a member of a group without regard to their individual qualities."
Republicans have recently lashed out at the program, which gives assistance to a group of farmers who have been significantly hurt by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. In February, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) falsely claimed , "If you're white, you don't qualify."
The institute calls the aid being targeted to minority groups "illegal and unconstitutional."
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller filed a similar lawsuit against the program on April 26, with the backing of white supremacist and former Trump administration official Stephen Miller.
The Wisconsin-based group was previously in the news in 2019 and 2020 for its efforts to suppress the votes of Wisconsin residents, disproportionately targeting Black voters.
In 2019, the Wisconsin Election Commission sent out letters to 234,000 voters it thought might have moved, telling them to confirm or update their registrations. The commission planned to remove the voters from the rolls in 2021 if they had not heard back from them.
But the institute sued on behalf of three voters and argued that the voters should be removed 30 days after the letters were sent, well ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
An analysis by the Guardian found that the voters targeted for purging were disproportionately in areas with large concentrations of Black voters and college students, populations that the newspaper notes are more likely to vote Democratic.
Purges of voting rolls have been shown in specific communities to disproportionately affect areas where minority and low-income voters live.
Litigation of the issue continued past the 2020 election until the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on April 9 that local elections officials were responsible for determining who should be removed and that the rolls in the case should not be purged.
In November 2020, Joe Biden defeated Trump in Wisconsin by a margin of 20,682 votes.
Wisconsin was a key state in 2016 that had swung from President Barack Obama to Donald Trump. Trump's victory margin was a slim 22,748 votes.
Members of the leadership of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty have strong ties to the Republican Party.
Michael Grebe, who serves on the board of directors, chaired former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's campaigns when he ran for the position in 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2018 and his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2015. He also served as general counsel to the Republican National Committee between 1996 and 2000.
Diane Hendricks, described by the Center for Media Democracy as the institute's largest known donor, donated $4.7 million to the Wisconsin Republican Party between 1998 and 2018 and $5 million to Walker's PAC when he ran for president.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.