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. amercon

    TV coverage of Afghanistan voting showed them checking photo IDs. How about American photo IDs for voting?
    Obamacare requires a photo ID to see a doctor or receive free care, so use it for voting.
    Obama told Kenya to get voter IDs. They are needed for everything and only cost $20; give them fee to those who qualify.
    There is much voter fraud and few who can not vote.
    Impeach the judge.

    April 29, 2014 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  2. SmartLawyer

    Simple. Pass a law requiring all Americans to have some form of photo ID – just like the idiots did with health care – or face a fine. Problem solved.

    April 29, 2014 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  3. Rick

    An identification card in my state costs $4.00 Its not a drivers license just a simple "this is who I am" card. Costs as much as a single Big Mac and is good for 4-6 years.

    April 29, 2014 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  4. JohnRJohnson

    There is virtually no impersonation voter fraud anywhere in the country. The voter ID laws that GOP-run states have tried to enact are all unconstitutional and blatant attempts to suppress voting rights. This is an orchestrated effort, being managed at the national level by the RNC. It's unAmerican.

    April 29, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  5. Fuzzy Thinker

    How many people without one of 9 forms of ID have voted Democrat in the past? Get the picture. The low-popularity representatives were elected by these kind of people.

    April 29, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  6. Jolat

    I don't understand. Who doesn't have a photo I.D.? Homeless people? Illegal immigrants? Help me understand.

    April 29, 2014 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  7. Robert F.

    Scott,r u really saying voter fraud is rare? Obviously u subscribe to Obama weekly,a place where he speaks the truth and everyone else is lying to make him look bad. Remember he's from Chicago and the motto is " everyone please vote and please vote as many times as you like".

    April 29, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  8. joe

    Rand Paul's comments about blacks ring hollow. They aren't targeting blacks, they're targeting the ever-increasing Hispanic population, that will never, as a whole, vote for Republicans.

    April 29, 2014 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  9. scarf

    In spite of what comfort some persons derive from believing otherwise, I am unaware of any responsible person, of any political persuasion, wanting ineligible voters to cast votes in any election. If the people are served by voter ID laws that ensure all votes are cast by legitimate voters, then the people should be prepared to pay for the expenses associated with the actions necessary to make that so. In other words, no charges for copies of certified birth certificates, etc. required for proving citizenship. No charges for state issued ID cards for purposes of complying with voter ID laws. And so forth. Such costs should be borne by the taxpayers, not the individual voter. Unless that is the case, voter ID laws are little more than poll taxes, which are illegal. The purpose should be to ensure that only legitimate voters cast ballots, and that no legitimate voter is disenfranchised.

    April 29, 2014 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  10. Brett

    "This law had robbed many Wisconsin citizens of their right to vote."

    Please ... name one? One that can't drive. One that can't open a bank account. One that can't register their kids for school. One that can't own property. One that can get a hotel room. One that can't board a commercial flight. One that can't enter a federal building with minimal security. One that can't cash a check ... anywhere. One that can't rent an apartment or house.

    Need I go on?

    The ONLY reason to oppose the use of proper ID to vote is to ENSURE voter fraud.

    April 29, 2014 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  11. shehar39

    our voting system deserves integrity.. it is the basis of our culture

    April 29, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  12. frankiesweep

    Yes, getting an id is hard.

    April 29, 2014 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  13. jn122736

    In my opinion there will be far more legitimate voters prohibited from voting because of voter ID requirements than there are people now voting illegally, because ONLY voting station workers decide when a person looks like the picture they present even when the picture is 5 years old as in the case of many drivers license photos.

    April 29, 2014 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  14. jo greggre

    Throughout the United States, the Democrats have been committing massive voter fraud for many decades. Looks like the fraud will be free to continue in Wisconsin. Appalling.

    April 29, 2014 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  15. TM

    Call it what it is, Voter Suppression Law.

    April 29, 2014 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  16. Patricia

    I'm a Social Worker, who works with homeless and formally homeless clients. I've seen comments in this thread questioning the possibility that Americans are surviving without ID. They are. ID is not as easy to obtain as people seem to believe. Each state has their own rules. In my state, you need birth certificate and Social security card before getting an ID. It costs money to get all three items. I've had several clients unable to jump through the hoops even with a case manager. Some states require an id to get the birth certificate. It's a catch 22. I can't help someone get an ID if The state won't give the birth certificate without ID. , and in the US, welfare doesn't exist like it did 20 years ago. Most people, can get a food stamp card that only pays for food. But cash benefits are ONLY available to disabled individuals. And it usually takes years to get disability even when the disability seems obvious. Parents can get three years of TANF (welfare) here but only if they work a job given to them by Jobs and Family Services.

    April 29, 2014 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  17. pchelp, Juneau, AK

    IMO the key question regarding the validity of voter ID laws are whether or not they prevent someone without ID from voting. They shouldn't. Even without ID a person should be able to vote a questioned ballot. Questioned ballots can be confirmed later if those votes are necessary to decide the election. Mostly they aren't so the cost of 'confirming' them is minor (because they don't need to be confirmed-they wouldn't change the election).

    April 29, 2014 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  18. Jim

    While I agree that voter fraud is very rare, I'm not sure I agree that requiring an ID is disproportionately hard on certain groups of people. If you are a legal resident and eligible to vote, it shouldn't be that hard to get a valid ID. You need an ID for all sorts of stuff anyway.

    April 29, 2014 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  19. Kenman

    Outrageous that we can't have a NATIONAL requirement for voter identification! If you can't come up with ONE of the NINE allowable ids, you probably aren't qualified to do something as important as vote, and definitely should not be able to do it repeatedly or have Democrat hustlers running around in vans, offering cigarettes and liquor to street people, or drug addicts, with the directive of how to vote.

    Did you see the story about the Pennsylvania Black Democrats taking bribes to oppose voter id laws!? But, they're black and the black Attorney General won't even charge them! And he used the claim of "racism" to explain his refusal to do so!

    April 29, 2014 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  20. Michael

    Today a federal judge struck down liquor ID laws as unconstitutional, and prohibitively regressive against minority shoppers. From the bench, the judge said, "It's unrealistic to think that minority, elderly and disadvantaged consumers should be required to show a valid government-issued ID to finalize a purchase of liquor, or any other service for that matter. Requiring these aforementioned groups to show photo-id is discrimination because often, these same groups are the ones least able to obtain and/or afford valid government-issued photo-id."

    April 29, 2014 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  21. clownshoes Mcgun from Kentucky

    If republiguns actually had some issues to run on, maybe they wouldn't waste all their time and our money on garbage like this.

    How about getting people excited about your platform instead of knowing you're views are now the minority of the country and trying to block people from voting to prevent losing. Countries going to hell in a handbasket but at least the GOP will let me take my guns to the park and live out my police fantasy if someone even so much as litters and doesn't pick it up...YEEE HAAA!!!!

    April 29, 2014 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  22. G_Edwards

    So will photo ID laws being required to exercise one's 2nd Amendment rights also be struck down?

    .

    April 29, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  23. GnatB

    Voter fraud isn't a person who legally can't vote but cares about his country so much he votes anyways. It's a person who wants his partisans to win so much that he votes for 'em multiple times.

    The saying "vote early, vote often". (and, arguably, keep voting once your dead) had some basis in the actualities of Chicago politics.

    April 29, 2014 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  24. Charles

    @ GonzoinHouston – While it is true it may take a hour or more to get to the nearest Dept. of Motor Vehicles office for your license many have the ability to make the ID there – sorta like your SAMs or other membership ID. Also for those offices not equipped to do that they do have both a temporary license and they mail you the photo id, no need to travel back to get it. Also passports are acceptable and you can have yours taken and mailed of at many of your local post offices. There are a number of ways and if we put even half the effort into helping those disadvantaged to get a photo id as we do to get out the vote and to register why it would take no more and half of the lead up to election cycle to get them all taken care of. The problem is it is just one more reason to complain. After pointing it out to my local state congressman and offering to help sign folks up, why it was no longer an issue to talk about...... just saying.

    April 29, 2014 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  25. albert yester

    American citizens have to have ID"s for all kind of things. Insurance, state benefits, social security, etc. Proof of citizenship should be a requirement to vote. It is one of the most precious rights we have. At least one senator was more than likely elected by felons who were not supposed to vote. Franken.

    April 29, 2014 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
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