In another victory for voting rights, U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman struck down Wisconsin’s restrictive voter ID law.
In his ruling released on Tuesday afternoon, Judge Adelman concluded that the law violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because it discriminates against African Americans and Latinos.
It’s interesting to note that, once again, the Walker government tried to claim that violating voters fourteenth amendment rights was justifiable to prevent in person voter fraud. Here is what the court said about that claim.
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 a 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.
This ruling is an important victory for voters in Wisconsin because it means Republican efforts to suppress their vote was thwarted. However, the significance of this ruling may extend beyond Wisconsin because it is the first case in which a court struck down a law designed to suppress the vote based on Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
Since the Department of Justice’s challenges to similar restrictive voter ID laws in Texas and North Carolina are based on similar legal grounds, this ruling increases the likelihood of victory for voters in those states.
Obviously, Republicans will be disappointed because this means they will have to try to win elections the old fashioned way – by earning the electorate’s support for their ideas. Good luck with that.
This ruling is one of several in recent months in which courts have ruled in favor of the right of every qualified American citizen to vote.
Last week, an Arkansas court sent that state’s vote suppression law down in flames. His ruling concluded the law is “unconstitutional as it adds additional qualifications for voters” beyond what’s in the constitution, and impairs the right of suffrage contained in the constitution.”
In January, a state court struck down Pennsylvania’s voter ID law on the grounds that it puts an unreasonable burden on the fundamental right to vote.
Court challenges to vote suppression bills across the country have, for the most part, been successful. However, these cases also prove just how terribly wrong the Roberts Court was when it claimed that vote suppression is a thing of the past. At the same time, these cases also show that vote suppression isn’t a southern thing as much as it’s a Republican thing.