As Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Vote Suppression, GOP Finds a New Way to Suppress the Vote

As Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Vote Suppression, GOP Finds a New Way to Suppress the Vote


Even with changing the rules on voter ID which the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld with a bit of tweaking, vote suppressors need more ways to intimidate voters.

Wisconsin’s Supreme Court upheld the state’s voter ID law in two separate challenges, by votes of 4-3 in a case brought by the Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP and 5-2 in a case brought by The League of Women Voters Wisconsin Education Network.

Curiously, the court had to write a “saving construction” to make the law constitutional. The issue was the fact that it costs $20 to get an in state birth certificate in order to get an acceptable Voter ID, even if the ID itself is available free of charge.  The Court’s majority acknowledged that was a problem in the challenge by the Milwaukee Branch for the NAACP.

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The modest fees for documents necessary to prove identity would be a severe burden on the constitutional right to vote not because they would be difficult for some to pay. Rather, they would be a severe burden because the State of Wisconsin may not enact a law that requires any elector, rich or poor, to pay a fee of any amount to a government agency as a precondition to the elector’s exercising his or her constitutional right to vote.

Patrick Marley, Bruce Vielmetti and Jason Stein of the WJS  explain how the court fixed the problem with a little saving construction.

To keep the law intact, the majority employed a saving construction of the state’s administrative code to require the Division of Motor Vehicles to issue photo ID without requiring a birth certificate or other documents that require fees.

While Republicans celebrate this ruling, it like many of their celebrations may be premature. In April, a Federal Court ruled that Wisconsin’s Voter ID law violates the U.S. Constitution.  That ruling is being reviewed.  If it’s upheld, these rulings become moot.

It is interesting that not so long ago, the right wing sought voter ID, initially to address statistically non-existent voter fraud.  Later it was about re-establishing confidence in the election system.  According to the right wing, new Voter ID laws were the answer to both of these statistically non-existent problems.

Then of course, Republicans needed partisan voter vigilante groups like True the Vote and The Voter Integrity Project, to interrogate and intimidate voters oh, and scrutinize poll workers.

Even those measures are not enough for the vote suppression crowd. It could be telling that even they recognize their voter ID law violates the U.S. Constitution.  That may explain why want to enable voter vigilante groups take photos and engage in video surveillance of voters and poll workers.

Chris Rickert of WSJ, reports Senator Mary Lazich and Rep. Kathy Bernier requested these creepy privileges at a Government Accountability Board meeting last week.  The board rejected the request by a vote of 4-2 – at least for now.

As Rickert points out, this is about further intimidating low-income voters who are more likely to vote Democratic.  Someone who looks official shoving a camera in their faces, after braving the voter ID process and long lines may be the last straw.  At least, that’s what Republican extremists are hoping for.

As insulting as this latest attempt at intimidation is for voters, it also suggests that poll workers are too inept, too corrupt or the extensive the rules in place are insufficient. Of course, when one is paranoid, nothing is good enough to reassure them.

With a wage ranging from $8-$10/hr., poll workers in Wisconsin are not in it for the money.  Aside from the low pay, they must undergo biennial training – possibly without pay.  Moreover, if they violate the laws they must swear an oath to uphold, they can face a fine of $1,000, six months in prison or both.

Even if the low pay and the penalties for violating the law aren’t enough of a protection, existing law makes it impossible for poll workers to tamper with the election.

No doubt, Republicans indulge in paranoid fantasies about voter fraud, and now, poll workers rigging the system against them because that is so much easier than admitting that their ideology is too extreme and too un-American for most voters.

Image: San Diego Free Press

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