In a decision that could have implications nationally and in Wisconsin’s November elections, a federal judge on Tuesday struck down the state’s voter ID law, saying it violated the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution. [...]
“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,” U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman wrote in his 70-page ruling. “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.”
Adelman, who is based in Milwaukee, found the state didn’t have an appropriate rationale for imposing a voter ID requirement. In-person voter impersonation — the only type of fraud a voter ID law can prevent — is nonexistent or virtually nonexistent in Wisconsin, he wrote.
“Because virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin and it is exceedingly unlikely that voter impersonation will become a problem in Wisconsin in the foreseeable future, this particular state interest has very little weight,” he wrote.
“The defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past.”
Adelman, a former Democratic state senator known for sponsoring the state’s open records law, determined that in practice the law requiring voters to show one of nine types of photo IDs at the polls established an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote. It also violated the federal Voting Rights Act because its effects hit Latinos and African-Americans harder than whites, he wrote.
Under the voter ID law, minorities “must pay the cost, in the form of time or bother or out-of-pocket expense, to obtain what is essentially a license to vote,” he wrote.
He issued an injunction barring the voter ID law from being enforced.
State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who defended the law, immediately pledged to take the case to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
Of course, this will be appealed to the Seventh Circuit – where there is a one-in-three chance that one of the Judges on the panel will be Judge Posner – and then, possibly, the Supreme Court. So although this is very good news for today, it may be that Republicans will succeed in the long run in preventing real voters from voting in order to fight a nearly nonexistent problem.
• Election Law Blog’s Rick Hasen’s quick reactions to the decision.
• After federal judge’s decision, is Wisconsin’s Voter ID law in serious danger?
• An A-to-Z guide to the ongoing voter ID fights in the states