Federal Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin Voter ID Law

U.S. Federal District Judge Lynn Adelman invalidated the Wisconsin law requiring voters to show a state issued identification in order to vote. This law known as Act 23 had already been halted by the State courts in Wisconsin.  To get this identification law back on the books, state officials would have to come to a successful appeal in both the state and federal courts. 

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 case than fraudulent votes. 

The Federal judge stated that it is unlikely that voter impersonation was not a huge problem in the state, and felt that it was unlikely that this would be a problem in the future.  Adelman ruled that this photo ID law was an undue burden on the right to vote.  It violated the federal Voting Rights Act especially because it has a huge impact on Hispanics and African Americans.  The judge identified the voter ID as essentially "a license to vote."  

The State Attorney General vowed to appeal the decision.   The plaintiffs in the case included a woman in her 70s who was born in Louisiana and thus did not have a birth certificate.   There was a fix proposed to allow low income people to sign a sworn statement in lieu of providing identification that has a monetary value.  This was never taken up by one side of the Wisconsin legislature.  Governor Scott Walker would have to call a special session to make any changes in the law that would be ready for the November election. 

The Wisconsin Assembly speaker Robin Vos, a Republican from Rochester, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he was extremely disappointed in the decision and blamed the judge's "liberal bias" as the basis for the decision.  There was an accommodation in the law for free State IDs, but that did not satisfy the judge since they still had to pay for a birth certificate.  Adelman noted that the fine and jail time for voter impersonation were huge, and saw those punishments as a deterrent to voter fraud.  The small number of potential voter impersonation did not justify the turning away legitimate voters by demanding ID.  

On Friday a State Court in Arkansas struck down their Voter ID law.  The imporatance of the Wisconsin decision is that it strikes the law based on the federal voting rights act which could have an impact on all these laws in the United States.

Brian Davis

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