Federal Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin Voter ID Law
A legal setback for Voter ID laws in Wisconsin.
A Federal Judge in Wisconsin has struck down that state’s law requiring voters to present photo identification when voting, finding that the law violates both the Constitution and Federal Law:
A federal judge on Tuesday struck down Wisconsin’s law requiring voters to produce state-approved photo identification cards at polling places, advancing a new legal basis — the Voting Rights Act — for similar challenges playing out around the nation.
Judge Lynn Adelman, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, found that the state’s 2011 law violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution as well as the Voting Rights Act, which bars states from imposing rules that abridge a citizen’s right to vote based on race or color.
“I find that the plaintiffs have shown that the disproportionate impact of the photo ID requirement results from the interaction of the requirement with the effects of past or present discrimination,” Judge Adelman wrote in the decision. “Blacks and Latinos in Wisconsin are disproportionately likely to live in poverty. Individuals who live in poverty are less likely to drive or participate in other activities for which a photo ID may be required (such as banking, air travel, and international travel) and so they obtain fewer benefits from possession of a photo ID than do individuals who can afford to participate in these activities.”
In Wisconsin, the photo identification requirement approved by Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans who control the State Legislature was already delayed following rulings in state court. But Judge Adelman’s finding citing Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, more often a factor in cases related to redistricting, is certain to draw note from those involved in other voter identification challenges, including cases brought by the Department of Justice in North Carolina and Texas, according to Richard L. Hasen, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, who specializes in election law.
Judge Adelman enjoined the state from requiring voters to provide identification cards, and required officials to seek legal approval of any revised law. The judge pledged to expedite hearings on any rewritten law, but wrote that “it is difficult to see how an amendment to the photo ID requirement could remove its disproportionate racial impact and discriminatory result.”
In an interview, Robin Vos, the Republican speaker of the State Assembly, said the judge’s ruling had been politically motivated. “He used his personal bias to say that voter ID is just wrong,” Mr. Vos said of Judge Adelman, who was formerly a Democratic state lawmaker and who was appointed to the federal bench in 1997 by President Bill Clinton.
“Our intention was never to make it hard to vote,” Mr. Vos said of the voter identification law known as Act 23. “All we want to do is make sure we have some reasonable proof that people are who they say they are.”
But in his decision, Judge Adelman said, “There is no way to determine exactly how many people Act 23 will prevent or deter from voting without considering the individual circumstances of each of the 300,000 plus citizens who lack an ID. But no matter how imprecise my estimate may be, it is absolutely clear that Act 23 will prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes.”
Judge Adelman essentially ruled that there was little evidence of in-person voting fraud, while the requirement to get an ID placed a substantial burden on voters:
The evidence at trial established that virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin. The defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past. The only evidence even relating to voter impersonation that the defendants introduced was the testimony of Bruce Landgraf, an Assistant District Attorney in Milwaukee County. Landgraf testified that in “major elections,” by which he means gubernatorial and presidential elections, his office is asked to investigate about 10 or 12 cases in which a voter arrives at the polls and is told by the poll worker that he or she has already cast a ballot. Tr. 2056-57. However, his office determined that the vast majority of these cases—approximately 10 each election—have innocent explanations, such as a poll worker’s placing an indication that a person has voted next to the wrong name in the poll book. Tr. 2057. Still, about one or two cases each major election remain unexplained, and the defendants contend that these one or two cases could be instances of voter-impersonation fraud. I suppose that’s possible, but most likely these cases also have innocent explanations and the District Attorney’s office was simply unable to confirm that they did. Moreover, the most Landgraf’s testimony shows is that cases of 5 potential voter-impersonation fraud occur so infrequently that no rational person familiar with the relevant facts could be concerned about them. There are over 660,000 eligible voters in Milwaukee County, and if the District Attorney’s office finds two unexplained cases each major election, that means that there is less than one questionable vote cast each major election per 330,000 eligible voters. The rate of potential voter-impersonation fraud is thus exceedingly tiny
Based primarily on the testimony of plaintiff’s expert, Leland Beatty, a statistical marketing consultant with extensive experience in business and politics, I find that approximately 300,000 registered voters in Wisconsin, roughly 9% of all registered voters, lack a qualifying ID. To put this number in context, in 2010 the race for governor in 10 Wisconsin was decided by 124,638 votes, and the race for United States Senator was decided by 105,041 votes. See LULAC Ex. 2 ¶ 10 & Table 2. Thus, the number of registered voters who lack a qualifying ID is large enough to change the outcome of Wisconsin elections. In addition to these registered voters without an ID, there are a number of persons who are eligible to vote but not yet registered who lack an ID. Because Wisconsin permits same-day registration at the polls, any eligible voter may become a registered voter on election day. One of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses, Matthew Barreto, a professor at the University of Washington and an expert on voting behavior, survey methods and statistical analysis, conducted a telephonic survey of eligible voters in Milwaukee County. Professor Barreto found that there were 63,085 eligible voters in Milwaukee County alone who lack a qualifying ID.
Judge Adelson goes on, in a lengthy opinion that’s well worth reading regardless of which side of this issue you happen to fall on, that the burden that the law places on citizen’s ability to vote, because of the cost of obtaining a qualifying ID for those who are low income, outweighs whatever benefits the state claims for the law, including the alleged need to prevent in-person fraudulent voting. However, it strikes me that Judge Adelson’s reasoning is flawed here.
While it’s true that obtaining a photo ID is not a seamless process by any means, and making it easier to obtain those forms of identification is definitely worth discussing, the idea that the process is so burdensome as to create a substantial burden on a person’s right to vote seems to be a bit of a stretch. There are already “burdens” placed on the right to vote in the form of the requirements one must go through in order to register to vote, and that fact that voting is restricted to certain times and locations during the course of an election cycle. Adding the additional requirement that a person seeking to vote be required to prove that they actually are whom they claim to be strikes me as a de minimus burden at the very most. Furthermore, to the extent that the cost of obtaining the identification is an issue then the solution would be for state’s to amend the laws to eliminate that cost, either for all voters or at least for low-income voters, rather than striking down the law entirely as Adelson has done here. Finally, even accepting the accuracy of Adelson’s finding that in person voter fraud is a minor problem in Wisconsin, the state has additional interests in protecting the integrity of the election process that would seem to be sufficient to justify the minimal burden of requiring that people be able to prove that they are who they say they are before they vote.
This ruling will, quite obviously, be appealed to the 7th Circuit, and potentially the Supreme Court, but it joins a number of other cases from around the country challenging similar laws, and in which opponents of Voter ID have made similar arguments to the ones advanced in Wisconsin. For the most part, though, those other cases have been decided in favor of the laws and, indeed, the Supreme Court itself has already ruled on this issue:
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that states can require voters to produce photo identification without violating their constitutional rights, validating Republican-inspired voter ID laws.
In a splintered 6-3 ruling, the court upheld Indiana’s strict photo ID requirement, which Democrats and civil rights groups said would deter poor, older and minority voters from casting ballots. Its backers said it was needed to prevent fraud.
It was the most important voting rights case since the Bush v. Gore dispute that sealed the 2000 election for George W. Bush. But the voter ID ruling lacked the conservative-liberal split that marked the 2000 case.
The law “is amply justified by the valid interest in protecting ‘the integrity and reliability of the electoral process,'” Justice John Paul Stevens said in an opinion that was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy. Stevens was a dissenter in Bush v. Gore in 2000.
Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas also agreed with the outcome, but wrote separately.
“We cannot conclude that the statute imposes ‘excessively burdensome requirements’ on any class of voters,” Stevens said.
Stevens’ opinion suggests that the outcome could be different in a state where voters could provide evidence that their rights had been impaired.
But in dissent, Souter said Indiana’s voter ID law “threatens to impose nontrivial burdens on the voting rights of tens of thousands of the state’s citizens.”
Scalia, favoring a broader ruling in defense of voter ID laws, said, “The universally applicable requirements of Indiana’s voter-identification law are eminently reasonable. The burden of acquiring, possessing and showing a free photo identification is simply not severe, because it does not ‘even represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting.'”
The was a ruling from 2008 on Indiana’s Voter ID law. Given the makeup of the court today, it seems wise to assume that Scalia’s broader ruling would be able to garner the votes of the Courts five conservative members, even in the face of the type of evidence that Judge Adelson cites in his opinion.
Here’s the text of the opinion:
Furthermore, to the extent that the cost of obtaining the identification is an issue then the solution would be for state’s to amend the laws to eliminate that cost, either for all voters or at least for low-income voters, rather than striking down the law entirely as Adelson has done here.
In fairness, Judge Adelson didn’t have a choice between (A) striking down the law and (B) requiring the government offices in Wisconsin that provide identification to stay open on nights and weekends and to waive their fees.
I agree that it would be better for lots of reasons for poor people in Wisconsin to have free and convenient access to government ID. The purpose of the law, however, was not to insure the integrity of the voting process, but rather to keep poor people from voting.
Voter ID laws would be perfectly fine if government provided the ID with little or no cost.
Have you noticed any voter ID laws enacted recently that include such a provision? I’m seriously asking, every example I’ve seen hasn’t and I’m notoriously lazy.
That is exactly the thought process Republicans went through in designing this law. The sole purpose of the law is to depress minority voting. I’m frankly sad to learn that a professed Libertarian is so indifferent to an obvious partisan power grab that employs voter suppression as its method.
There is no problem, the GOP invented a problem, which is “solves” by deliberately targeting opposition voters. And that’s not a problem for you?
And have we seen a single case of a Democratic legislature choosing to “solve” this non-existent problem? Funny how it’s 100% Republicans.
The 7th Circuit upheld Indiana’s voter i.d. law, a fact that the judge certainly knew. It would be interesting to see how the judge distinguished them. (IIRC, Indiana might have made its i.d.’s free, but the complaint was still that the poor have transportation problems)
The judge specifically cited the SCOTUS case. In that case there was no evidence on either side – no evidence of fraud, no evidence of a burden.SCOTUS said that IF there was evidence of a burden outweighing the harm addressed, it would’ve ruled against the law.
In thiscase, there was again no evidence of fraud, but the challengers did their homework and provided ample evidence of a burden (wither Doug agrees or no).
I don’t think this case even has the grounds to be appealed to SCOTUS since it is a simple application of their existing precedent and a weighing of evidence. In fact, on a weighing of evidence, the judge’s decision should only be overturned by a court of appeal on a finding of palpable and overriding error (not just a difference of opinion).
@PD Shaw: Oops, forgot that 7th circuit decision was affirmed by the SCOTUS, and its the one Doug is citing.
lol….sigh..Would it not be smarter for us to force them to get I’D’s to apply for their food stamps and starve them to death? Oh wait…..
Harry, would you like for me to give you a tour of Racine on voting day? You want to come stand in line with me as I vote to see the problem? Or maybe we could drive from place to place and see all the vans from Illinois? I live here and have tried to show and tell you people what is going on. Remember during the recall and the recall election? And you are still at square one yelling racist and believing the Democrats as they tell you they don’t cheat. Sadness, sadness, sadness….
Doug seems not to realize that voter ID laws are generally part of a package of laws (includimg restrictions on early voting and Sunday voting) designed to supress minority and low income voters. INdeed, supporters of such packages have even expressly SAID they are aimed at deterring minority voters. Now sure, you can shut your eyes to the evidence and accept the statements of the advocates of such packages that this is all about deterring voter fraud, but have to shut your eyes to the EVIDENCE that talk of voter fraud is just a pretext.The good thing about this case is that the judge made findings of fact tha the ID requirement did disproportionally affect minorities. The USSC can’t simply disregard those factual findings (well, it can , but it shouldn’t).
Indeed, the difference between the time of the earlier Supreme Court ruling and today is precisely that there are facts on the ground the show the voter fraud claim is a pretext.
1.Studies have in fact showed that there is virtually no voter fraud.
2. Supporters of such laws have been caught saying that the real intent is voter supression.
3. The well respected conservative jurist, Richard Posner, who wroting the appellate court decision upholding INdiana’s voter ID law( Which the USSC upheld) now regrets that decision.
In the fact of all that, the USSC should reconsider its decision. Doug points out why it probably won’t-the conservative bloc on the Court. Chief Justice Roberts in particular, seems to have made it his life’s mission to dismantle the VRA.
The joker in the deck is as always, Kennedy. He might just be persauded by the evidence of voter supression. He has just that more of a sense that the 14th Amendment means something than the other conservative judges, so there is a smidgen of hope there.
@G.A.Phillips: It absolutely would be better in a nation with 300+ million citizens if everyone had a National ID card to be used for multiple purposes: voting, taxes, applying for benefits, employment verification, travel ID, etc. But every time the idea gets advanced in any way, people lose their shit and the inevitable “Papers, please!” Nazi comparisons start flying around.
Ah, Doug, the point of these laws is make it hard for minority and low income voters to vote:
If the court were to order that legislature make it easy for minority and low-income people to vote, WI legislators would lose all enthusiasm for these laws.
Yeah, it’s funny how national ID went from being a right-wing paranoia about black helicopters and re-education camps to being something they love. It must be tough for them deciding which to go with: partisan advantage or paranoia.
A Voting Rights Amendment should be in the platform and campaign promises of every politician. Hammer it constantly and don’t be afraid. If they are against it, then slap the un-American, un-Patriotic label on them. And lots of votes to put people on record.
I would find it hard to argue against such an amendment,
Isn’t the requirement for government issued photo ID to buy a firearm affecting the same people in the same manner? Where is the OUTRAGE?!?!?!?!
@G.A.Phillips: Ooohh my favorite voter fraud story – the countless vans full of out of state illegal aliens bussed in to vote. It’s been going on forever and yet with all the camera phones and voter fraud monitors out there, no one has EVER been able to get a photo of them. I always say they must be vampire voters who don’t show up on film – it’s got to be the only explanation.
@G.A.Phillips: If you have any evidence of voter fraud call the governor’s office. They apparently can’t find any, maybe you can help them out.
Spot-on, sir. So Government imposes costs on citizens, supposedly to address a problem that does not actually exist*, and libertarians give the old “so what”?
*1 in 330,000, according to the judge. What’s the ratio of executing innocent prisoners (which is A-OK)?
Not to see the whole “voter i.d.” thing as anti-democracy sure must take a lot of effort.
Having spent enough time around our conservative commenters, you should understand that they hate the idea of *federal id* because it’s black helicopters. They love the ID of *State IDs* cause of “federalism.”
Further they hate the ID of automatically issued State ID, because… well because.
Good ID are that must to be proactively acquired at very specific (often geographically remote) locations with limited hours of operations — because if you want to vote you need to show that you’re willing to work for the *right* to vote (remember the Constitution doesn’t explicitly create a right to vote… oh wait, it does).
Or have a gun license. Usually that works as a valid ID.
Federal judge strikes down wisconsin suppression law
Fixed your headline for you.
I vote via absentee ballot every election because with 4 jobs I don’t have time to wait in line at a polling station.
All voting should be by mail.
You could really test the racial animus of the GOP by having drives to get lots of poor minority folk to sign up for gun permits in order to vote.
That’s the kind that actually has more fraud, though.
@Tillman: I would support that effort.
Always have to admire the the ability so many people have to read the minds of conservatives to find their secret agendas.
@Hal_10000: No mind reading involved: Just listen.
Since you seem to have missed this above, here it is again:
@Hal_10000: What’s your theory as to why conservatives are passing these laws?
Voter fraud prevention should be done in the registration process, not at the polls. Virtually all fraud is either false registration or committed by those who count the votes. In California they check you off against the voter rolls when you vote; I don’t quite see how a phony could vote unless he got there before the real person voted.
By the way, California’s DMV fees. Note that even an I.D. card is almost four hrs. minimum wage, although the reduced fee I.D. is only an hr.’s minimum wage. But that adds the requirement of visiting a different gov’t. agency & obtaining a form. And if you’re just poor, but not receiving assistance, tough, I guess.
Free if you’re 62+ though.
I like how it is also a burden on people who live in the middle of nowhere as well. Here is the DMV hours for the Oneida County for example which has about 36,000 people in it:
If you can’t make it on one of the 6 days they’re open you’re SOL unless you can make it to the next county over, which keeps DMV hours on:
Open dates for 2014: February 5, April 2, June 4, August 6, October 1, December 3.
No burden there.
I think we all agree that the negro can’t be trusted with the vote.
No, it is mind-reading. And I’m tired of it.
What Turzai said and the impetus behind most of these laws is the belief that the 2008 and 2012 elections were stolen because of massive voter fraud. This belief is unbelievably common among conservatives. Even otherwise rational people will tell me that the Democrats clearly stole the last two elections. In Pennsylvania specifically – where I live and where Turzai lives — the Republicans strongly believe Obama would have lost the state in 2012 if it weren’t for massive voter fraud.
They are wrong about this. While I believe there is some voter fraud, it is not nearly large enough to have tipped any recent election (Obama won PA by 5 points). But this belief is very strong and almost immune to reason. And it is only strengthened by liberals who insist that this is all about Republican racism and trying to strip votes from minorities. It is only strengthened by liberal opposition to any voter ID law, even if it comes with provisions to make obtaining ID easy.
An obvious compromise would be to extend and expand early voting in exchange for photo-ID requirements (with easy access to ID and provisional ballots for those who don’t have ID on election day). But both sides are too entrenched for that.
@Hal_10000: So we should pass unnecessary laws to assuage lunatics? And do you think they won’t still believe that future elections are being stolen even after voter ID laws are enacted?
Democrats are indeed entrenched. Prove that there is a problem, and we will discuss a solution. Meanwhile, we have problems that exist outside of people’s imaginations to deal with.
Get back to us when you can prove there is a problem.
@Hal_10000 raises a number of good points. And I think it’s always important to appreciate the different drivers of any group.
Without a doubt, many in the conservative base:
a. believe there is rampant voter fraud
b. are more concerned about the idea of preventing voter fraud than concerns about disenfranchisement.
The issue with these folks, beyond getting into any discussion about the realities of voter fraud, is:
a. most reject the idea of national id
b. fail to appreciate that “easy” for them is not, necessarily, “easy” for others (in particular the working poor).
That make some of the discussions rather difficult to have (and I admit that there are issues on the Dem/Liberal side that equally hurt things).
The problem we face is that there are also clearly Republican/Conservative law makers who are interested in enacting these laws for reasons that seem far more to do with preventing democratic voting than protecting the sanctity of the polls:
And it fits into a larger pattern we saw during the last election of taking steps to make it harder for people in traditionally liberal districts to vote in places like Ohio.
Granted, politics isn’t mumblypeg, but we also need to appreciate that while some are acting as honest, true believers, others have a far more cynical motivation.
You are invited for a tour of Racine on election day also Beth.
lol, I would print out, roll up and spank you with evidence of voter fraud if I thought it would help you understand that it’s real? But it won’t.
OK ,let me try it this way. If you think we want people to use the I’D’s that they have to use for EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! else to prove who they are when they vote because we want to suppress anyone’s vote save those that cheat/vote illegally you are a ******* Idiot or can’t do any thing else but repeat the lies of your, leaders that programmed you. But I repeat myself. Or perhaps you are paid too?
And I strongly believe voter ID laws won’t change that at all. We’ll start hearing that the vans full of illegal aliens are being given phony IDs.
@G.A.Phillips: Again, if this has been going on for years it shouldn’t be too hard to get proof of it, shouldn’t it? Here’s a hint: if you want to prove something, you should, I don’t know, maybe show some proof of it.
Every time I show these clowns proof their response is the same. They lie and deny it. And when I say the same, I mean exactly the same! And how comes everyone needs to prove **** except voters from the left? Or anyone from the left? Cookie cutter bull****. This is how it always is with the left. All lies and denial and made up attacks.
And I see most of the clowns here have not changed a bit.
Well Harry at least will tell a story while doing it, but it is still the same busted *** crap inside.
@G.A.Phillips: That’s just nonsense. You haven’t shown any proof and neither has anyone who wants to pass these laws. Are you really suggesting we should write laws based on some “feeling” you have? How ridiculous.
1. Do you think the “Obama stole Pennsylvania” canard, which comes down to belief that shifty negroes who run Philadelphia are corrupt, and probably should not vote anyway, as they are bribed by their liberal overlords with gifts taken from honest rural/suburban folk, has nothing to do with race?
2. So, you suggest that Democrats compromise with what you concede are people driven by paranoid fantasies. What happens when Clinton wins Pennsylvania in 2016, and republicans decide that this was fraud all over again? More compromise? When will the cycle end?
@G.A.Phillips: The federal judge in the case in question found that there are 300,000 registered voters that have no IDs. Is he lying? Is ACORN blackmailing him?
@G.A.Phillips: I do wonder while you failed to forward your iron clad evidence to Walker’s legal people who had been roundly humiliated in the judge’s ruling. In fact, I think to the extent you could have saved democracy in Wisconsin by exposing the DEMONRAT shenanigans in the court of law, and failed to do so, you might be part of the conspiracy. Really, what better way to get people thinking that proponenst of voter ID are insane people with anger issues than paying unemployed liberals (all liberals are unemployed!) to pretend to be proponents of voter ID laws who are clearly insane and hold immense amount of rage inside?
Like his picture GA is a troll and best ignored. If you look the other way he’ll go back under his bridge.
@stonetools: “Doug seems not to realize that voter ID laws are generally part of a package of laws (includimg restrictions on early voting and Sunday voting) designed to supress minority and low income voters.”
Doug is selectively ignorant of many things, including reading the f-ing decision:
Doug: “While it’s true that obtaining a photo ID is not a seamless process by any means, and making it easier to obtain those forms of identification is definitely worth discussing, the idea that the process is so burdensome as to create a substantial burden on a person’s right to vote seems to be a bit of a stretch. There are already “burdens” placed on the right to vote in the form of the requirements one must go through in order to register to vote, and that fact that voting is restricted to certain times and locations during the course of an election cycle. Adding the additional requirement that a person seeking to vote be required to prove that they actually are whom they claim to be strikes me as a de minimus burden at the very most.”
Doug, read the f-ing decision.
In addition, Doug is also ignorant of the fact that the Walker administration selectively closed DMV’s in certain neighborhoods.
@stonetools: “He has just that more of a sense that the 14th Amendment means something than the other conservative judges, so there is a smidgen of hope there. ”
That’s a low bar; having actually read it would probably put him above the Gang of Four.
@Cal American: Seconded.
“Always have to admire the the ability so many people have to read the minds of conservatives to find their secret agendas. ”
(a) They confess it and (b) they tailor the f-ck out of their attitudes in revealing ways.
@Dave D: “If you can’t make it on one of the 6 days they’re open you’re SOL unless you can make it to the next county over, which keeps DMV hours on:
Open dates for 2014: February 5, April 2, June 4, August 6, October 1, December 3.”
Repeating this, since people (Doug, I’m looking at you!) don’t know it – this is not an accident; the Walker regime closed DMV’s and cut hours after passing this law.
It’s not an accident
@Hal_10000: “No, it is mind-reading. And I’m tired of it.”
We’re tired of Tea Party lies.
@G.A.Phillips: Links or GTFO, plz. If in-person voter fraud is so rampant, why isn’t there, ya know, documented instances that are readily available for everyone to examine? Perhaps on this internet thing?
Also, Racine is about 20 miles from the Illinois border so the idea that there are cars there with IL tags being out of the ordinary is pretty laughable.
@Tillman: Texas gives free id’s, i just find it kinda hard to believe that anyone who wants to vote is just too damn lazy to get an id. you need an id to do just about anything already. not like wisconsin was part of the south back in the day.
@Tillman: “Voter ID laws would be perfectly fine if government provided the ID with little or no cost.
Have you noticed any voter ID laws enacted recently that include such a provision? I’m seriously asking, every example I’ve seen hasn’t and I’m notoriously lazy. ”
The exact opposite – the Walker regime cut DMV’s and restricted hours. A commenter above listed the hours of a few, which were several days per year.