“The single most restrictive voter eligibility law in the United States.” So said Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan of the Wisconsin law, although his comment makes me wonder if the good judge has seen Texas’s law. If ours isn’t worse than Wisconsin’s, it isn’t for lack of trying. Judge Flanagan said the law “is addressed to a problem which is very limited” and “fails to account for the difficulty its demands impose upon indigent, elderly, and disabled citizens.” A trial is scheduled for April 16, at which time Flanagan will decide whether the injunction could be made permanent. The plaintiffs include Voces de la Fronterra, a Latino rights group, and the Milwaukee chapter of the NAACP.
The “problem which is very limited” is, of course, identity fraud, which everyone acknowledges (except proponents of Voter ID, that is). A University of Wisconsin professor testified that over 220,000 eligible voters do not have an ID. The arguments opposing the law will be familiar to readers:
* The burden, in Wisconsin (and probably elsewhere) falls heaviest on people of color (half of whom do not have ID’s), and the elderly (23% lack ID’s.)
* Free identity cards are available, but affidavits speak of difficulties such as delays, misinformation, and dysfunctional computer systems.
The state indicated its intention to appeal the case: “We disagree with the ruling and will continue our efforts to defend Wisconsin’s voter ID law, which is similar to laws that have already been upheld by the United States Supreme Court,” said Wisconsin Department of Justice spokeswoman Dana Brueck in response to the ruling, which is expected to be appealed to the state supreme court.
It is true that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a Voter I.D. law (Indiana’s), in Crawford v. Marion County Board of Election. However, Judge Flanagan rests his ruling on the Wisconsin state constitution, which contains a provision that expressly protects the right to vote. Crawford was decided under the U.S. Constitution, which does not provide the same kind of protection. This means that voting restrictions could have a harder time passing muster under the Wisconsin Constitution than under the U.S. Constitution.
“We disagree with the ruling and will continue our efforts to defend Wisconsin’s voter ID law, which is similar to laws that have already been upheld by the United States Supreme Court,” said Wisconsin Department of Justice spokeswoman Dana Brueck in response to the ruling.
However, Judge Flanagan wrote that the ruling was not controlled by the case Brueck referenced, the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision Crawford v. Marion County Election Board. In that case, the nation’s highest court deferred to the Indiana legislature in holding that Indiana’s voter ID law did not violate the U.S. Constitution.
Act 23 (Wisconsin’s Voter ID law) is being challenged under the Wisconsin Constitution, which expressly protects the right to vote. Crawford was decided under the U.S. Constitution, which does not provide the same guarantee. Consequently, voting restrictions will have a harder time passing muster under the Wisconsin Constitution than under the U.S. Constitution.
* * * *
I don’t want there to be any ambiguity about where I stand. Voter ID is intentional voter suppression, pure and simple. The voter fraud that it exists to combat does not occur in mass. The reason identity fraud is not prevalent is simple: Even if schemers could get their hands on fraudulent identify cards, they couldn’t get enough identity cards to swing an election. Too much work, too much risk, for too little reward. Everybody knows that the real problem is fraudulent mail-in ballots, but nobody wants to address it. I’m not nutty on the subject. I can understand why there is opposition to same-day registration. I wouldn’t support that. But the folks who vote for Voter ID should be ashamed of themselves. It’s anti-American.
Here’s the history: The idea of limiting the number of people who vote is closely associated with ALEC’s founder, Paul Weyrich, who told a group of religious conservatives in 1980: “I don’t want everybody to vote … our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” That’s why it’s anti-American. It’s all about keeping people from voting.