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. God MAY NOT be a Liberal, but He IS a Democrat

    If it aint broke, why are you spending time & money trying to fix it? That`s where the waste is on the side of Republicans.
    We have managed to vote with integrity for 100s of years . . . what changed? The answer is nothing. I can remember back 20 years ago when my NJ state driver`s liscense didn"t have my picture. We sure managed airport travel & banking fine.

    And to those asking how people without photo ID`s cash their welfare check, a.) maybe they aren`t getting a welfare check, b.) maybe they have direct deposit, maybe they sign the check and hand the teller a deposit slip.

    If you want to limit state issued ID to driver`s licenses and specifically Voter ID cards, then I have no problem. What some of you are conveniently forgeting is that a gun owners permit is on these lists as eligible but an ID from the STATE University to a student is not. One party gets a boost from gun owners. Let`s see which one is that again? One party has a problem attracting highly educated student . . . . and that party would be the R _ p_b_i_c_ns. So these unnnecessary changes to acceptible voter ID are not intended to be equal among the parties nor are they combating any cases of voter fraud.

    April 29, 2014 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  2. manhandler1

    These laws have NOTHING to do with voter fraud......There isn't any......not now and not ever. These laws are all passed by evil Republicans and they only do it to disenfranchise people who will vote against them. They know that more votes mean less Republicans. And the sooner THAT happens, the better.

    April 29, 2014 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  3. ghostwriter

    Boy, you guys are clueless. I have cashed many a check and haven't shown ID since probably the late 90's. I've purchased alcohol and haven't been carded in years. Not on welfare, but since it's pretty much a debt card, you don't have to show ID to use it either.

    For those that can't seem to grasp the concept as to how this could be racist, you just aren't paying attention. Regardless of what you think, there are folks that don't have the TYPES of ID these new laws are requiring. And they mostly are minorities....and older folk.

    And to those who bring up the ONE case in Ohio (while conveniently forgetting the incident in FL with the republicans)......You have a long way to go to prove that it is rampant. It's kinda like how conservatives scream that we don't need new guns laws because we already have laws on the books.

    April 29, 2014 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  4. voting4dollars

    If this want about just simple political gaming the uninformed the liberals would be telling Mayland and its DNC poster child government to strike down their stringent viewer ID laws. They are deep blue and guess what...... state of federal issued ID is required to vote. Where's the outcry and court cases for Maryland. Oh yeah. It's a single party (DNC) state and liberals are hypocrites.

    April 29, 2014 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  5. mikkj1

    Wisconsin has a 0.0002 percent instance of voter fraud, and most of those cases are legitimate errors. The rates of fraud are similar, or even lower in all states wanting voter ID laws. So, if voter fraud is not actually a legitimate problem, why do they continue to say it is? It can't be discrimination, the Supreme Court says that racism is dead.

    April 29, 2014 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  6. SI67

    Dang! A problem had been solved, and then that doggone court got involved. Don't they know that it's much easier to solve imaginary problems than it it is to solve real ones?

    April 29, 2014 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  7. are122

    Well, maybe they could try banning dead people from voting...get more accurate of a vote in Chicago at leas. Obviously the judge is a democrat.

    April 29, 2014 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  8. Martin

    Will this open the door for all the ILLEGAL ALIENS to vote when they should have no right!!

    April 29, 2014 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  9. Me

    Just for those that are not aware: Items like food stamps, welfare, opening a bank account, etc. do not require a photo ID.

    Also, the amount of voter fraud is statistically insignificant. Sure, it's nice to say that we want to eliminate voter fraud, but at what cost?

    April 29, 2014 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  10. Tird of the COURTs

    Time to revam the Consitution and rid our selves of these screwed up judges, Of course a disproportionate number of certain groups will be affecte, they are CALLED MEXICANS

    April 29, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  11. Realistic85

    Republican politicians wasting tax dollars to solve imaginary problems. So much for fiscal responsibility...

    April 29, 2014 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  12. Subnx

    If you're too stupid or lazy to get a voter ID you shouldn't be voting. I was asked for my ID three times today. Airline, loaner car, hotel.

    April 29, 2014 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  13. Mark

    Voter Fraud doesn't exist only until you see it happen.
    In 2008 I was actually home for the November election and went to my assigned polling center with my family. Imagine my surprise when I was told by the clerk that I had already voted that day and was shown where someone else had signed on the line with my name. I was able to prove that I hadn't voted already, and then the clerks offered me a ballot and said that I could just sign under another persons line because: "this person never shows up to vote."
    I called the County Registrars Office to complain and report voter fraud. Their response: "you should have voted sooner so no one else could sign on your line." I then asked what happens if I vote by absentee ballot and someone goes to the polling station and signs under my name. Their response: "we disregard the absentee ballot as we assume a signature at the polling center is the actual person."
    Since I was shown that other people were voting in my name, and was told that my vote won't count if someone else signs under my name, why shouldn't I support voter I.D. laws? Based on my own experiences, not having voter I.D. laws increases the likelihood of voter fraud. Getting an acceptable state issued identification card is simple and is almost a requirement in current society. If you can't trouble yourself with acting like a member of society by getting an I.D. card, then don't get mad when people tell you that you can't do something...like vote.

    April 29, 2014 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  14. Liz the First

    Score one for out endangered democracy!!! glad Judge Lynn Adelman didn't buy the bogus argument of 'voter fraud.' the only fraud is the repugs' attempts to defraud anyone who opposes them out of their right to vote. for people who scream so loudly all the time about how much they love their country, they sure don't love the things that make this country great, our cultural and religious diversity, our sense of fair play, and our belief that we are all equal. this country is fast becoming an oligarchy and the repugs are doing everything in their power to make that nightmare scenario a reality.

    April 29, 2014 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  15. Logictox

    They can ask for an ID for just about anything except our most sacred right. Only liberals find it offensive to have fair elections.

    April 29, 2014 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  16. Bill Davis

    No ID at the Welfare Office,
    44,000 are registered in 2 states and they are the dame,,,,
    Dead Demos vote twice, and maybe more...

    April 29, 2014 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  17. Roberto

    What a sad sad day in America. Way to go Judge Lynn Adelman.

    April 29, 2014 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  18. JohnNFlorida

    Republicans are trying to Reverse Carpet Bag the country. Only the Discriminatory South was required to take extra judicial steps to insure that ALL the people in the state entitled to vote were given the CHANCE to vote without having to jump through EXTRA hoops that whites didn't have placed in their way (reminds you of the EXTRA steps Republicans lobbied for from 2008 through 2012 for President Obama to prove he was the legitimate President – steps no previous President was ever asked or even THOUGHT of being asked.).
    Now they want to use the rules implemented for a Discriminatory South and spread it across the country to disenfranchise voters in other states.False Identification has NEVER been a problem in voting and the few cases (VERY few) that occurred in '08, '10, and '12 didn't occur based on that parameter. This isn't a Republican problem or a Democrat problem. This is a Propaganda Problem and the only ones falling for it are the sheep who are illiterate in the first place.

    April 29, 2014 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  19. Daniel P. Hanover

    I think the court is DEAD WRONG with this decision, and I hope this bad decision gets overturned on appeal.

    April 29, 2014 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  20. vivdrummer

    It is correct that voter fraud is very rare. Voter REGISTRATION fraud is not so rare. The problem with voter registration fraud is it overstates the number of actual voters and really doesn't help anybody. So if a non-profit registers a bunch of non-existent democrats, it actually hurts the democratic party by giving them false numbers.

    April 29, 2014 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  21. Bill

    Let's see, the "disproportionate impact" on requiring ID outweighs the "disproportionate impact" of fraudulent voting? SMDH.

    April 29, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  22. Jim

    I, for one, am very sceptical of the claims of the NAACP et al who claim that millions of people lack any valid ID. Given the vast number of things that require such ID (cashing a check, getting a prescription, establishing a bank account, buying many over-the-counter medicines, renting an apartment, buying a car, etc, etc, etc, etc), I find it hard to see how many could survive without ID.

    Even if some such people exist, it would seem that the problem to solve is getting them such an ID, NOT whether or not ID should be required to vote. Voting is arguably one of the most important things we do as citizens - it's not too much to ask that people have an ID with them.

    April 29, 2014 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  23. Jon O'Brien

    To anyone who thinks voter fraud is rare or that it doesn't jeopardize our democracy, I have three words for you: City of Chicago. This is where the phrase "vote early, vote often" came from. It's how life-long Republicans suddenly turn in to reliable Democratic voters in the afterlife. About the only way you could manage an honest election around here is if all of the election judges were shipped in from elsewhere.

    April 29, 2014 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  24. mbutler91c

    Of course it was struck down; now all we have to do is strike down all of the other things we need to show ID for that aren't nearly important as voting. Next will be ID for: Alcohol, tobacco, food stamps, welfare, Social Security, banking accounts, flying, going to visit the White House, going to hear any POTUS speak, going to the DNC or DOP Conventions, etc. Yeah! No more need to show ID for anything!

    April 29, 2014 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  25. Thomas

    I'm a democrat , I believe every american should have identification . , it should be easy and simple to make . I also believe gun registration information needs to be recorded and be more accountable . We need both for any immigration law anyway.

    April 29, 2014 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
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