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. Gryphon38

    I guess what I don't understand is that with the NAACP having been the champion for black voting rights for well over 50 years, why has the NAACP failed to resolve the issue of making photo IDs easily available. Time and opportunity has clearly been available. Or is it more sinister in that once the photo ID becomes generally accepted within the black community that the leverage of this issue is lost to the NAACP. It just fails a simple logic test that the NAACP has not fixed this issue by now. For all the advances that have happened over the many decades since the 50's, this one still lingers and defies logic.

    April 30, 2014 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  2. davecu

    Wouldn't it be refreshing if we could work together for the betterment of our country?
    Both parties have badly served us in soo many regards.
    Our common good should still be paramount and it is not.

    Please work together!
    Remember who you work for!

    April 30, 2014 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  3. Another Voice

    I used to think showing ID was no big deal, then I realized that when I moved to an east coast city that had good public transportation, I didn't ever get a driver's license for that state. The photo ID I used when I needed one was my work ID (not government issue) or my expired driver's license from California. I never had a problem in the 3 years I was out there and never needed a government issued ID for anything.

    April 30, 2014 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  4. THIS Nov. *2014* VOTE Blue, Vote for Democratic candidates

    It's simple. The GOP don't want poor people to vote, especially Black poor. They have NO evidence of voter fraud and are simply trying to suppress votes.

    April 30, 2014 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  5. Mark Anderson

    The Republican losers are still in denial.

    April 30, 2014 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  6. notaliberal

    Another liberal judge who wants to make his own laws. Awful.

    April 30, 2014 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  7. Mavent

    You know you're a Republican when you think people need restrictions on their right to vote, but not on their right to carry murder weapons.

    April 30, 2014 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  8. Dennis

    Why weren't Republicans screaming about voter fraud when GWB was in office? If it is present now,then it was then also.The same goes for defecits.It's a problem when Obama is elected but it wasn't when Bush held office? I say BS to each and everyone of you whom says otherwise!

    April 30, 2014 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  9. Smeagel4T

    Oh no!!! What is the GOP going to do if they can't get the courts to believe their lies about rampant voter fraud without being able to provide any evidence in support? This had already become very apparent when Justice asked Texas to provide their data on all the "rampant voter fraud" and Texas didn't have anything. Every single right wing fascist group has always turned to voter oppression to get their way. Everything from "special" voter laws to out-right intimidation to scare voters away from the polls.

    April 30, 2014 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  10. basedonfact

    GDU- Many people have no need to ever get drivers licenses or passports. Ever try driving anywhere in NYC? People use trains and busses. I know people in their 40's who never bothered to get a license as it is just an extra expense. I just wonder could there be any connection between voter ID laws and DMV offices in democratic voting districts closing? Hmmmmmmm. You see GDU, for some people getting a voter ID could cost them a days pay or their job.

    April 30, 2014 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  11. Paulwisc

    Sorry Brad, that's just more right-wing fantasy.

    April 30, 2014 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  12. Thatguy371

    "Wisconsin officials had argued there was a legitimate government interest to prevent voter fraud and impersonation..."

    You mean the less than 1/10 of 1 percent? Yeah, real problem there. I can see you getting upset... THAT YOU CAN'T LEGALLY KEEP THE 'PROBLEM VOTERS' FROM MAKING YOUR GUYS LOSE ELECTIONS.

    April 30, 2014 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  13. DJ Ricochetfla

    Why don't they start calling these laws what they are and what they are designed to do. They should be called Voter Suppression and Disenfranchisement Laws. They are designed to suppress the votes in minority, urban, low wage paying, and educated areas and disenfranchise older citizens and felons who've had their rights restored despite LACK OF EVIDENCE of voter fraud. These pieces of legislation come from the same party who publishes the wrong election date in Spanish language ads in an attempt to deceive Hispanic voters. The same party wants to eliminate absentee voting for the average citizen but, also wants to shorten poll hours, advocates for fewer days, eliminates poll locations, and lengthen wait times for urban, elderly, and minority voters. If you were running a business, you'd think you'd add resources to the areas and times when you saw business booming. The Republican Party had decided to TAKE resources from urban areas despite huge population gains in those areas to lengthen the wait time in an effort to lower the turnout. The lack of integrity and evidence of deceit and discrimination with which these laws are offered should offend everyone while these people try to pass themselves off as Christians. I wish we could make them take an oath each and every time they had to make a statement.

    April 30, 2014 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  14. Lou

    I've had the unfortunate pleasure of needing to apply for NY State help at the Department of Social Services due to 2 years of unemployment from a layoff. On the long lines, I have seen no problems for minorities to come up with a lot of identification, financial information, driver's licenses, birth certificates, etc., etc. Who's silly idea is it that the poor, minorities, disabled, etc. don't have proper ID??? Maybe someone who is not a citizen might lack a proper document, but then, they CANNOT vote! If anyone wants to vote, then simply register to vote if you are a citizen. Hell, they even give you that form when you apply for Medicaid, Food Stamps, or anything else. And a voter's registration form is included in your DMV paperwork to get a driver's license or state ID. I don't see how any judge or other citizen of the United States would consider the identity of a voter any more or less important than the identity of a driver, or check casher, or homebuyer, or health insurance user, or whatever. Do you leave your home without ID very often?

    April 30, 2014 02:13 am at 2:13 am |
  15. J.V.Hodgson

    Here we are voting for house members and senators who seek power that extends Nation wide within the limits of checks and balances in the constitution and we need individual separate state voting laws? The logic defeats me.
    The myth of voter fraud has already been disproved many times which is the major reason given for ID based laws, being needed.
    In many Eurpoean countries the system is simple the government issues a voter card to you based on local and national records, often national census forms as core; and then the national and local records of birth death and marriages which then form the voter register. All on the list are sent a voter card to their Home address (its up to you to maintain your correct home address for voting). That post card document card and address fixes your voting station as well. When you go to vote you give up the card. Aha the card can be forged... yes but the name and address and serial number of the voter post card would not be valid against the voter register, if it's serial numbers shows up in multiple voting stations but with a different address, or the number is fake vs the name etc
    The point is the burden of cost is not on the citizen but on the all the states in US and nationally to provide, up to date and complete voter registers; and voters to ensure only that their current address follows them from state to state. Even this has some risks as the poor and low paid tend to move and search out work more than the middle class and across state lines... but they should have a vote even if they are prisoners, or poorly educated, intellectually deficient. Even the insane if they can fill out the voter form. They are all citizens and that's what gives the right to vote not a photo or other ID.
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    April 30, 2014 02:17 am at 2:17 am |
  16. Iamnotfooled

    Good. I hope all the judges in the U.S. do the same thing. Voting is a right and everyone should have it. Voter fraud exists only in the minds of those who want to suppress the vote , and cheat to win .

    April 30, 2014 02:32 am at 2:32 am |
  17. Um, excuse me, but

    all you racist how-do-they-cash-their-welfare-checks or get-their-food-stamps-without-state-ID throwbacks should be...

    banned for life.

    April 30, 2014 02:38 am at 2:38 am |
  18. someguy

    The NAACP claims 25% of African Americans lack a government issued ID, vs 16% of Latino voters. Hmmm. Can anybody explain that?

    April 30, 2014 02:48 am at 2:48 am |
  19. Paul

    You know what's funny? All the conservatives are so riled up about "voter fraud" and having all these voter ID laws... but I have yet to see one conservative that has tried to reach out and make IDs easier or more accessible to his constituents. That's the big problem, right? All these gosh darn Democrats won't let you discriminate because of the disproportionate effect. Fix it! If you can GUARANTEE that all of those registered to vote have IDs, then have your ID laws. Why doesn't anyone fighting for these laws seem to care about the voters affected by it?

    April 30, 2014 02:51 am at 2:51 am |
  20. duh

    We are all so screwed..

    April 30, 2014 03:19 am at 3:19 am |
  21. southmost

    Every analysis has shown that such laws disenfranchise far more legal voters than the tiny number of fraudulent votes they prevent. Even the laws' supporters don't contest that fact. This makes the laws prima facie bad policy.

    But when you prod the supporters just a little bit, you see this was the point all along: to prevent those legal voters who "couldn't be bothered" to get the ID from exercising their constitutional right. You see such comments all across these boards. It's about making sure that only the "right kind" of citizens are allowed to vote. And guess which demographics make up the "wrong kind" of citizen? Such policy is unconstitutional, at least since the 24th Amendment.

    April 30, 2014 03:34 am at 3:34 am |
  22. Dani Lerberg

    Without ID, how is it determined one is old enough to vote and if one is US citizen?
    Need ID for to obtain welfare, food stamps, etc.
    Need ID to buy liquor and cigs.

    Dems have no problem giving rides to polls on Election Day. So give rides to obtain IDs.

    Just what other method would you suggest we use to prevent voting multiple times?

    April 30, 2014 04:51 am at 4:51 am |
  23. whatever1784

    when will issa waste more of my time and money investigating this proven non-issue?

    April 30, 2014 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  24. Marie MD

    @al, Adelman might be a democrat but she's also a judge who knows what the teaklans and koch brothers are doing which is to NOT allow American citizens the right to vote.
    @to all of you who lisiten to the "I have heard" bs from faux news. They are lying! Step out of the bubble and find out the real truth about voter fraud. Non existent and what they might have found is less than 1%.
    I guess being members of the oppressive party who wants to cut off all human and civil rights makes you . . . . fill in the blank.

    April 30, 2014 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  25. cat0325

    In Virginia, the voting process has been shown to be corrupt because REPUBLICAN "vote registrars" who go door to door trying to register people to vote have THROWN OUT the forms of people who are registering as Democrats. They have FALSIFIED forms, they have CHANGED forms. A Voter ID law that requires a certain picture ID is only Constitutional if ALL states provide birth certificates at NO CHARGE and the state with the Voter ID law provides the requisite ID at no charge. If there is a charge at ANY point in the process it becomes a POLL TAX which has been ruled UNConstitutional.several decades ago.

    April 30, 2014 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
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