Wisconsin voter ID law struck down by federal judge
April 29th, 2014
04:56 PM ET
8 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. Scott Cisney

    I think this is all backwards, as concerns the efforts to stop voter fraud. Apparenly voter fraud is extraordinarily rare. But let's suppose it "exists", for a moment. If it exists, it means that a few people who are not eligible to vote end up voting. Voting. They vote. Lots of us don't vote, but apparently maybe there are some people who really want to vote, and they might "cheat" to do it. They must really love the country if they vote. They must care about the issues. In short, they are ACTING like involved citizens. So THAT is what we are trying to prevent? OR, is it something not so noble, maybe one party is actually trying to secretly stop certain groups from voting. Stopping people from voting? How "un-American" can it be????

    April 29, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  2. Brad

    It has a a "disproportionate impact" on those wishing to vote multiple times.

    April 29, 2014 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  3. blome Sarah blome

    If we don't let people with no drivers license not vote, we might as well not let anyone that makes less than a million dollars vote because you know low income people are low info voters

    April 29, 2014 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  4. Obamafan

    How does the most poor , who gets welfare , food stamps , medicare , section 8 , Obama phone , even survive without a state ID ?

    April 29, 2014 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  5. conoclast

    What 'voter fraud and impersonation'?? Wasn't that shown LONG ago to be a non-issue, existing solely in the fevered minds of republican strategists? The right to vote is what our system is based on; it is its very lifeblood.

    Attempts at restricting that basic right should be seen for what they in fact are: acts of treason.

    April 29, 2014 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  6. GonzoinHouston

    The devil's in the details; in the case of voter ID's the state has complete control of ID requirements and access to appropriate offices. In parts of western or southern Texas, it can be a 3 hour or longer drive each way to an office that can issue the ID, and there's no guarantee they will issue it on the first trip.

    April 29, 2014 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  7. al

    Lynn Adelman is a Democrat. What a suprize!

    April 29, 2014 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  8. Greg

    Call it what it is, voter suppression. Next to treason the most un American act there is. All those conservatives who claim to be for the Constitution are actually pissing on it. There is no problem. Actually there is. To the right. The people they are trying to suppress votes left. The right already gerrymandered districts. Isn't that enough cheating already? If you can't win a fair fight do what the wimps do, cheat.

    April 29, 2014 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  9. M Gonzales

    Let this go to the supreme court and get it all over with, enough with these lower courts saying this or that in each state.

    April 29, 2014 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  10. Quixote

    Good that we have courts to stop this injustice by republicons, coordinated by deep pocketed shadow interest groups. They are a disgrace to American democracy.
    If they think their ideas are so good why do they feel the need to stop American citizens from voting!

    April 29, 2014 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  11. GonzoinHouston

    The right to vote is the single most important right in America. It's more important that freedom of religion or press, and even more important than the right to bear arms. The state can deprive someone of these rights in certain circumstances, but it's a legal big deal when they do. The voter ID laws will deprive hundreds of thousands of people just in Texas of their legal right to vote. They put the burden on the citizen to prove they have the right rather on on the state to prove they do not. If this is not a blatant over-reach by a big-government autocrat, what is?

    April 29, 2014 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  12. jerome

    "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."

    Lack of photo ID prevents those same millions from visiting the White House, Barack. The same house they provide for you to live in.

    April 29, 2014 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  13. langor1

    Voter ID laws are needed to protect the system from abuse by those ineligible to vote. Perhaps there could be a grandfather clause for the CURRENT elderly that MIGHT not have ID, but that's it. Proof of eligibility to vote is not a Jim Crow law and does not taint the sanctity of the private ballot. I am baffled by a federal government that thinks it is ok to spy on American citizens phone calls and emails, but doesn't think it is important to protect our elections from fraud.

    April 29, 2014 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  14. Ryan

    Instead of requiring a piece of plastic that can be easily faked and difficult for some to obtain (gathering documents and actually getting to an office can be very difficult), why not set up a Photographic voter registration database? When a person registers to vote (using the requirements already on the books), take a digital picture of that person. Then when they go to vote, they can pull up the picture and compare it to the person in front of them. Then register in the system when and where they voted. Even if they fake their registration, it will be more challenging to vote again or have someone else use their information.

    Its not rocket science, people.

    April 29, 2014 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  15. georgex9

    Voter laws ought to be designed to encourage participation rather than add difficulties as the Republican controlled states are doing. I know these restrictions will discourage some Democrat voters from going through the additional trouble to vote but this is a party selfish motivation and doesn't help the democratic and representative process to do the will of the people.

    April 29, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  16. ed dugan

    Any law that keeps hispanics from voting, even ones here legally, is a good law. I hope they can figure out a way to enforce the law. It would also be a great thing if they were required to speak fluent English.

    April 29, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  17. The REAL Truth...

    The real intent of the VoterID laws in not to prevent voter fraud, but to prevent Dems from voting, since they tend not to have the correct forms of ID. Watching the GOP get catatonic over voter fraud is hilarious given that research (and my own) has show that voter fraud at the ballot box is pretty much non-existent. In that reddest of red states (TX) the there have been 52 cases (with 5 convictions) in the last 30 yrs. With some 40M+ votes cast during that time, that's about 0.0000013%. None of those were from illegals..

    April 29, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  18. trildog99

    " ...concluding that opponents of the requirement have shown it has a "disproportionate impact" on many voters."
    "disproportionate impact" is as bogus as arguments get. Furthermore, it is an argument of convenience. For example, Obama's 'tan tax' clearly has a disproportionate impact on light skinned people (i.e. caucasians), yet it was found constitutional.

    Also, if showing an ID prohibits someone's Constitutional right to vote, than showing an ID for a backround check prohibit's someone's Constitutional right to "bare arms".

    Lastly, if I have I right to vote, than the state has an obligation to ensure that my right is not negated by fraud.

    April 29, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  19. Dead Bear

    I guess the GOP will just have to rely on gerrymandering for rigging the electoral process in their favor.

    April 29, 2014 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  20. Fred

    The ONLY way any state will be able to demand an ID card to vote, is if they offer it for FREE, to those under a specific income level (basically, to anyone at the poverty income level). Otherwise, it's considered racism. Doesn't matter if these same people need an ID to cash their government check, it's racism, according to the liberals.

    Great logic, courtesy of the left.

    April 29, 2014 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  21. CrashMan

    This is all to prevent a problem that doesn't exist. In the past 13 years there have been a total of 45 cases of voter fraud in Wisconsin, 37 cases in Texas, and just over 2000 cases nation-wide. Is it really worthwhile to impose hardship - or even inconvenience - for a problem that rarely occurs?

    April 29, 2014 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    If you need a photo id to cash a check, buy a house, get a loan, drive a car and many other things, why shouldn't you have to show you are yourself in order to vote? It seems to me that it's almost impossible for the vast majority of people to live without some form of photo id. For those few who don't have photo id, there should be some form of assistance in getting it. If you are legal to vote, you should be able to get an id. If you are not legal, then you should not be able to vote. Very simple.

    April 29, 2014 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  23. Serious Truth

    Gotta love it where you need a photo ID to buy cigarettes or booze but do not to vote. I guess buying smokes or a drink is more important than voting.

    April 29, 2014 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  24. reader10

    A lot of excuses to get an ID.
    People don't mind driving 100 miles to County fairs.

    April 29, 2014 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  25. jackson

    How do all those people get beer and cigarettes (are they not the same demographic that uses those products?)? It would seem the inability to cheat is an existential threat to the left wing – heck, I need an I.D. to get my discount at Denny's. Is Denny's waging war on minorities and the poor?

    April 29, 2014 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
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