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

    Voter fraud is real. In 2006, I went to vote and was told that I had already voted! Someone apparently checked in as me. I had been living abroad, and I guess someone figured out that I likely would not be voting and so cast a ballot for me. I don't really see what the issue is. If you don't have a state-issued ID, get one. You don't need a driver's license. Just an ID card. Based on my experience, we have not as a country yet figured out how to combat voter fraud.

    April 29, 2014 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  2. Jason

    I am not sure how anyone can be against providing identification to vote. Where are all these people without identification? I honestly do not know of a single person that doesn't have identification. Even the folks that come into the shelter that I volunteer at have id's. Strange.

    April 29, 2014 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  3. Mike Hunt

    Wow, pretty racist to assume only whites are smart enough to get a voter ID. Of course, that is typical of liberals and Democrats. Minorities are not capable of doing for them self so they need the help of the superior white liberal to do it for them.

    April 29, 2014 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  4. Serious Truth

    How can someone operate in today's society without an ID? You need it to bank, you need it to drive a car, you need it to buy booze or smokes. Yes, if you are in the country illegally, you will not be able to vote. Democrats claim this infringes on rights, then how come they are not fighting to legalize the purchase of alcohol or cigarettes without an ID?

    April 29, 2014 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  5. patti

    Scott is always trying something to prevent democrats from excersising their voting rights. That being said, I would hope that a person voting would have some form of ID.
    But I doubt that anyone would be able to change an election with voter fraud. Elections are already bought and paid for by lobbyists, and people like the Koch brothers

    April 29, 2014 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  6. 1twinsfan

    ID is asked for. When you register to vote.

    April 29, 2014 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  7. Beetlejuice

    Disproportionate impact? Discriminatory?

    So you're saying the State of Wisconsin has NO requirement to provide identification to, say, get a driver's license? Or to sign up for welfare benefits? Or open a checking account? Or buy liquor? Or go to Rent-A-Center and rent a washer, dryer, TV, whatever ... ?

    Surely you jest.

    April 29, 2014 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  8. steve

    "The interesting thing about voting patterns now is in this last election African-Americans voted at a higher percentage than whites in almost every....' And that is exactly why Republicans are trying to suppress the vote.

    April 29, 2014 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    " If they truly thought that all of their voters were legitimate, would they care about having to show ID?"

    And the answer is yes. It's precisely because these voters are legitimate that they shouldn't be disenfranchised by legislative attempts to suppress their votes by deliberately constructing the legislation to place a higher burden on them than other people.

    Again, all your nonsense about in-person voter fraud being a pervasive problem has been repeatedly and consistently disproven, time and again and again and again and again. If you need to cling to it to explain away why you keep losing, then you are deeply engaged in defending a delusion with rationalizations and reality-denial.

    April 29, 2014 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  10. Vijay

    Kudos to the judge...

    April 29, 2014 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  11. yeahright

    "Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

    House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny)
    ---------
    Any questions?

    April 29, 2014 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  12. shawn l

    633 incidents of voter fraud in 14 years out of hundreds of millions of votes.

    April 29, 2014 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  13. glenview0818

    When I voted last time there were 4 people in line that had no identification nor could they prove address in any way so they signed a bunch of papers, held the line up for some time and ended up voting. I live in a very small community and have never seen them before, they should not have been allowed to vote. That is 4 people in my small town with absolutely no proof of any address or identification. Mandatory ID's laws are ok by me.

    April 29, 2014 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  14. Silence DoGood

    @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.
    -------------
    Yes, that has been debunked many times. And of course it happens in 1's and 2's but not enough to change much.
    But that does not stop the Conspiracy Theory folks from creating a wild tale.
    The conservatives are supposed to be into these "first principles" of our country. But somehow when we talk about equal and easy, unfettered access to voting, first principles go out the window for a while.

    April 29, 2014 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  15. Jeremy

    @Obamafan – what a senseless ill-informed comment. Perhaps some people young or old just don't have a state id and would have a difficult time getting one. They aren't necessarily on welfare. Now off to the Hitler youth meeting for you...

    April 29, 2014 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  16. Mark

    There is a reason a government issued ID was not a requirement in the constitution. Once the government gets to issue ids to decide who gets to vote then you have essentially done away with any real democracy. It's only a matter of time before the 'wrong' administration comes along and makes it nearly impossible for those in the opposing demographics to obtain id cards. Do you trust your government 100%? If you don't then maybe you need to rethink the government you don't trust requiring you to come to them for an id to vote!

    April 29, 2014 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  17. roro

    Thank you, Judge Adelman, for doing the right thing. The Tea Party union-busting governor lost the minority vote in 2010 by 92%, and this terrible voter suppression law is designed specifically to make sure that doesn't happen again this year since he is up for reelection. There is no in person voter fraud in Wisconsin so there is no need for this law. This is the old Republican "if you can't beat 'em cheat 'em" mentality.

    April 29, 2014 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  18. david saint

    lol i see some still believe the GOP voter fraud myth, despite NEVER being able to prove it when provided the opportunity. So, while the right wingers howl about "freedom", they support a fraudulent measure to limit the right to vote for millions..hypocrisy at its finest.

    April 29, 2014 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  19. DRJJJ

    I've read parts of Ohio and Florida had over 125% turn out with all votes for Obama. It's an all you can vote special folks!

    April 29, 2014 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  20. Joshua

    If ID is required, then how hard is it for these people to go get an ID? Almost everything requires an ID these days.

    April 29, 2014 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  21. 1776usa2016

    ALL of these stupid Voter ID laws are going to be struck down.

    .

    April 29, 2014 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  22. thomas jefferson

    I think you should have to take a test in order to vote that shows you are aware of factual information that exists around issues and politics. Voter ID is just more big government.

    April 29, 2014 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  23. jayfive67

    Voter ID only prevents Dead people from voting mutliple times like in the last election.

    April 29, 2014 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  24. grace

    ID required?

    YES
    1) Alcohol
    2) Cigarettes
    3) Opening a bank account
    4) Apply for food stamps
    5) Welfare
    6) Medicaid/Social Security
    7) Unemployment
    8) Rent/Buy a home
    9) Drive/Buy/Rent a car
    10) Get on an airplane
    11) Get married
    12) Buy a gun
    13) Adopt a pet
    14) Rent a hotel room
    15) Apply for a hunting license
    16) Apply for a fishing license
    17) Buy a cell phone
    18) Visit a casino
    19) Pick up a prescription
    20) Hold a rally or protest
    21) Blood donations
    22) Buy an "M" rated video game
    23) Purchase nail polish at CVS
    24) Purchase certain cold medicines
    25) Enter State and Federal buildings

    NO
    1) Voting

    April 29, 2014 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  25. Chris-E...al

    We all know its about letting illegals vote not americans. Dems are just sorry and power hungry . My vote should count .

    April 29, 2014 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
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