Wisconsin voter ID law struck down by federal judge
April 29th, 2014
04:56 PM ET
4 months ago

Wisconsin voter ID law struck down by federal judge

(CNN) - Wisconsin became the latest state to have its voter identification law struck down by the courts, with a federal judge in Milwaukee on Tuesday concluding that opponents of the requirement have shown it has a "disproportionate impact" on many voters.

Judge Lynn Adelman in Milwaukee ruled the requirement that voters present one of nine forms of government-approved photo ID was in violation of the landmark Voting Rights Act. He issued an injunction blocking enforcement of the law. A state judge had earlier tossed out the law on similar legal grounds.

Wisconsin officials had argued there was a legitimate government interest to prevent voter fraud and impersonation, by requiring those casting ballots to prove their identity.

However, "Act 23 serves the state's interest in orderly election administration and accurate recordkeeping only to the extent that it serves the state's interest in detecting and preventing voter fraud," concluded Adelman. "Act 23 weakly serves the latter interest."

He added "Perhaps the reason why photo ID requirements have no effect on confidence or trust in the electoral process is that such laws undermine the public's confidence in the electoral process as much as they promote it."
The state's Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, responded, saying, "I am disappointed with the order and continue to believe Wisconsin’s law is constitutional. We will appeal."

It is unclear whether separate appeals of the state and now federal rulings will be resolved before November's statewide elections.

The decision comes a week after a state judge in Arkansas dismissed that state's voter ID law. Courts in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Missouri, have recently done the same.

Thirty states in the U.S. have some form of voter identification law, including 12 that require a photo ID, like Wisconsin. At least a dozen other states have pending or proposed laws in the legislature.

Various coalitions of private plaintiffs, civil rights groups, and the federal government have filed challenges to laws in some states, and have generally been successful on stopping enforcement, at least temporarily.

The issue has become a key part of the Obama administration's domestic agenda.

"Across the country, Republicans have led efforts to pass laws making it harder, not easier, for people to vote," President Barack Obama said in an April 11 speech before the National Action Network. "I want to be clear–I am not against reasonable attempts to secure the ballot. We understand that there has to be rules in place. But I am against requiring an ID that millions of Americans don't have. That shouldn't suddenly prevent you from exercising your right to vote."

His supporters say such laws discriminate against minorities, given that a large percentage of minority voters do not have state-issued identification cards. Nationwide, the NAACP claims a quarter of African-Americans and 16% of Latinos of voting age lack a current government-issued photo ID.

"This law had robbed many Wisconsin citizens of their right to vote. Today, the court made it clear those discriminatory actions cannot stand," said Karyn Rotker, Wisconsin senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 allowed Indiana's voter ID law to stand, saying at the time the stated goal of stopping voter fraud was a legitimate exercise of legislative power. And the conservative-majority court last June struck down the key enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act, making it harder for the federal government to have oversight over voting regulations in states with a past history of discrimination at the polls.

Many conservative lawmakers have said the voter ID requirements have not inhibited the ability of minorities to vote.

"The interesting thing about voting patterns now is in this last election African-Americans voted at a higher percentage than whites in almost every one of the states that were under the special provisions of the federal government," Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, said last August, in response to the high court's ruling. He said he had no problem with photo ID laws. "So really, I don't think there is objective evidence that we're precluding African-Americans from voting any longer."

The Wisconsin case is Frank v. Walker (11-cv-1128).


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soundoff (215 Responses)
  1. Thomas

    Gov. Scott Walker responded by showing the press his GED certificate .

    Who needs an education when you tell others what to do ?

    April 29, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  2. Gurgyl

    --they should do in North Carolina too. That pathetic idiot Pat McRory signed viciously.

    April 29, 2014 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  3. Randy, San Francisco

    Next time RNC Chairman Priebus announces an outreach program to minorities, he should be reminded of the onerous voter ID laws passed by his party. Next time a Republican politician talks about democracy and voting rights, he or she should be reminded of the onerous voter ID laws.

    April 29, 2014 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  4. sly

    Republicans wanted to ban 50 million Americans from ever getting Health Care.

    Now they want to ban voters from voting.

    The Party of No.

    April 29, 2014 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  5. The Real Tom Paine

    Wasting taxpayer money for a non-existent problem while ignoring real problems seems to be what conservatives like to do. They are the only ones in the country hell-bent on depriving people of the franchise, as opposed to extending it.

    April 29, 2014 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  6. amanda james

    It is incredible that our country could be so brainwashed as to believe that requiring a drivers license to vote is racist. LOL

    You all deserve the punishment you are getting from the government.

    April 29, 2014 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  7. DustyOnesIsBack

    This does not impede anyone's right to vote. Proof of citizenship and address where you live is important to you get the correct ballot.

    April 29, 2014 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  8. welcane

    Why not just help those without proper ID secure proper ID. I have to show photo ID every time I vote (FL) I can't believe we are wasting time and money fighting about this. By the way how do these poor people cash their welfare checks each month without proper ID?

    April 29, 2014 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  9. GDU

    Voter ID laws should be passed.

    If someone in this day and age, has no passport, and not even a driving license, then he / she will in all likelihood be a super low-info voter, who will, in all likelihood, have neither the education, nor the intellect to make an intelligent choice – guess we are better off without such folks voting.

    April 29, 2014 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    "Perhaps the reason why photo ID requirements have no effect on confidence or trust in the electoral process is that such laws undermine the public's confidence in the electoral process as much as they promote it."

    You know what else promotes confidence in the electoral system? Not demagoguing non-existent voter fraud as though it's a widespread, pervasive problem, particularly when all the evidence has proven that it's not.

    April 29, 2014 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  11. tsl

    i guess i do not need to show id to cash a check, buy liquor. " But I am against requiring an ID that millions of Americans don't have" try saying that to a police officer when stopped. "officer i do not have an id the president said millions of us do not need one". see how far that gets you.

    April 29, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  12. DaveinIL

    "But for Adelman, this is nothing new. This is the same Judge Adelman who threw out the conviction of a girl who had murdered another teenager over a leather coat because Adelman thought the trial judge should have allowed the killer to argue that she suffered from something called "urban psychosis." Adelman also threw out the conviction of murderer Kathleen Braun because the judge at her trial had ordered a spectator out of the courtroom. In both cases, Adelman’s rulings were later overturned by higher courts."

    April 29, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  13. The Fact of the Matter

    "... such laws undermine the public's confidence in the electoral process as much as they promote it." The public has confidence in the electoral process as it is? LOL.

    April 29, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  14. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Move On America!!
    FORWARD!!!!

    April 29, 2014 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  15. yolanda

    @Randy, yup, having a photo ID is extremely onerous. Next thing you know they will be demanding that you have one to open a bank account, or buy liquor, or board a plane. Where will it stop? Why not make the effort to assist those without photo ID's in getting one? That would take a bit more effort than getting them to register to vote and would have the desired result.

    April 29, 2014 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  16. Chris-E...al

    Its just not right in 2014 not to have a I.D. how does a person cash a check get foodstamps a job . We cant do nothing without i.d. . Please tell me how anyone can function ? Please ?

    April 29, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  17. Bobby

    Supreme Court already ruled on voter ID in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board. This will get overturned pretty quickly on appeal based on that.

    April 29, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  18. al

    There is only 1 reason Democrats are against voter id laws, they are cheating or want to cheat in elections. Asking for ID is a reasonable thing, and would not stop any responsible person from voting.

    April 29, 2014 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  19. Tom

    Citizenship is now worthless.

    April 29, 2014 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  20. American Worker

    Integrity in the voting process is essential.

    Not being able to trust the results undermines the trust in our elected officials.

    Our elected officials have enough trouble being credible without having to second guess whether or not our votes put them there.

    April 29, 2014 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  21. 21st Century Patriot

    Let's stop humoring those who pretend that these voter ID laws are anything other than an attack on the most sacred pillar of our democracy, i.e., the principle that elections reflect the will of the people. What could be more un-American than keeping Americans from voting? The claims of voter fraud are a fraud themselves. In whose mind does it make sense to keep 100,000 people from voting to prevent the influence of 10 (if that many) fraudulent votes?

    April 29, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  22. Old, Cranky Vet.

    Why is presenting a valid photo ID onerous? If you are elderly or do not drive, most counties is every state provide a photo ID, normally free of charge to anyone who requests one. If you have a Meijers, Costco or Sam's club card you have a photo ID. If you drive you have a photo ID. If you were in the military and registered with the VA, yo have a photo ID. This isn't rocket science, it is common sense to all, except perhaps those who have other intentions i.e.fraudulent voting. I would not support disenfranchise one from voting, but come on. Let's think it through. For every reason you cn provide as to whty an individual could not obtain an ID card, I can present you with two ways to acquire one. Thank You.

    April 29, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  23. freaknic

    "Not demagoguing non-existent voter fraud as though it's a widespread, pervasive problem, particularly when all the evidence has proven that it's not."

    Hey what about that lady who went to jail for voting 5 times in the last election for Obama? She was invited and honored by Democrats to a voting rally after she was let ouf of jail. Yep voting 5 times isn't voter fraud at all.....

    April 29, 2014 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  24. American Worker

    If government won't assure the integrity of the voting process, then the people had better be on their toes to watch for fraud and report it in public forums.

    April 29, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  25. Kman

    You Democrats don't even try to make sensible arguments any more. You know that no matter how illegitimate your stance, the media has your back. This is a dangerous road we're on. This particular matter proves it. How requiring identification for something as important as electing the people who run our country can be labeled as racist is such a stretch that it defies all logic. I've never seen a party so frightened by the fact that its voters might have to prove that they are who they claim to be when they cast their ballot. Ask your self this: If they truly thought that all of their voters were legitimate, would they care about having to show ID?

    April 29, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
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