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

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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. sifto

    Of all the dumb excuses by democrats to demonize honest people..this voter id fight takes the prize..there can be only onereason they want people to vote without ID.......so they can vote more than once...and for democrats...

    April 30, 2014 06:39 am at 6:39 am |
  2. king

    these repubs are so desperate knowing that the future and their philosophy doesn't match. they are stocking up for leaner years ahead. the problem is all they are doing wont matter, because until they are seen to be a good alternate to the democratic party, they are in deep doo doo. all this trying to rig the voting system and taking away mullions of voters rights, only will anger voters, so that big companies can have more power of our democracy. they might win the battle in the short run, but the future holds allot of problems for them.

    April 30, 2014 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  3. Rudy NYC


    It has a a "disproportionate impact" on those wishing to vote multiple times.
    Wisconsin officials are unable to demonstrate that voter fraud exists at the polls. If anything, most of Wisconsin's voter fraud seems to be committed by election officials. There's a history of votes being found in obscure places in close races.

    If tens of thousands of people need the state issued ID, then why is it the state legislature didn't budget money to produce them? Why doesn't the law provide more time for people to obtain the state issued ID cards, instead of taking effect so quickly? What's wrong with your voter registration card? What's going to happen next, purges of the voter rolls?

    April 30, 2014 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  4. Gail me Name

    I agree with the judge. One only has to see how difficult it is to get a photo id, to see these laws are ONLY designed to keep poor people of color from voting. One has to stand in line for hours and hour (lose wages) and have at least 2 utility bills to prove you live in the state. Most poor people are UNABLE to do this.
    The rise of federalism again in this country is becoming alarming. 1% controlling the govt, paying less proportionately of their earnings than a secretary. Now preventing huge blocks of people from voting. Not creating the jobs that their trickle down system is supposed to. Creating an extremist baptist literalist biblical state to control the inevitable uprisings that will come. Gerrymandering to the point that a minority of voters lead to control of the house. Once again, the dilution of votes
    I am a Republican, but I don't vote anymore due to their policies.

    April 30, 2014 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  5. TONE

    amanda james

    It is incredible that our country could be so brainwashed as to believe that requiring a drivers license to vote is racist. LOL

    You all deserve the punishment you are getting from the government.

    The problem is not producing an ID at the polling station because in NY i have to show ID before i vote, it is access to an ID, and the repulsivecans are making it difficult for for the people to get ID why people have to drive 3 and 4 hours to get an ID, i wouldn't say it's racist i would say an evil plan by the recrooklicans to get power.

    April 30, 2014 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  6. Ian's Rushtache

    If you are judged by how many laws you can enact that are struck dow, Republicans win hands down.

    April 30, 2014 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  7. Ian's Rushtache

    If they wanted this to be a truly Democratic Republic they would look to revamp the voting process to match the technology of the day and look to make voting easier to get more citizens involved. But that is the GOP nightmare.

    Isn't it funny how we care so much about making voting accessible for all in the countries we invade, but work our socks off to limit voting in our own country. And we wonder why the rest of the world thinks we're a joke.

    April 30, 2014 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  8. Dean

    I think we should follow the lead of the middle-east...after you vote, dip your finger in a bucket of dye. That would greatly cut down on the number of Democrats who try to vote multiple times.

    April 30, 2014 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  9. Concerned

    If voting is a right in the constitution and as a result you shouldn't need an I.D.? Shouldn't this be carried over to the Right to Bear Arms? Its also in the constitution and therefore by the same logic, you shouldn't need an I.D. to buy a gun.

    April 30, 2014 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  10. Lynda/Minnesota

    Restrictions, restrictions, restrictions. Can't win legally ... can't win on a platform ... can't win on ideology. What's the solution? Make it harder and harder for the other side to vote against freedom loving GOPerville candidates who've been plying one less freedom after another against ALL Americans.

    Got to love these anti-American freedom loving "real" American patriots. Or not.

    April 30, 2014 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  11. Sense

    The voting system is not secure and is endangered when you can't verify a voter is an American Citizen or to ensure a person does not vote more than once. Total nonsense by the Federal Courts. These rulings need to be appealed to the United States Supreme Court where they already struck down the voters rights act for these very same reasons. Democrats want the illegal Mexican immigrant vote plain and simple as they can't win without it.

    April 30, 2014 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  12. Patrick

    If there is no voting fraud then explain how over 100% of eligible voters vote in some places? How in "battle ground states", states where the vote could go either way, 1,2,3, or 4 votes per voting district goes to one side while all the rest go to the to other? The majority of these one sided elections happen where electronic voting machines are used. Let us not forget the people whop brag about voting in multiple in a federal election.

    There is a lot more voter fraud going on then the media will currently report on.

    April 30, 2014 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  13. Malory Archer

    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.


    You certainly can't vote on the east coast with an expired California driver license, and while many businesses WILL accept a military ID (or other government ID) to cash a check or obtain credit, I've found they aren't open to the idea of accepting a "work ID (not government issue)" as they don't contain information such as home address/phone number or any other personal information required for such transactions.

    April 30, 2014 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  14. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    The only voter fraud is being perpetrated by election officials and usually in the favor of the GOP. Even without ID, you can't vote more than once. When you show your voter registration card your name is crossed off the list. If you're not on the list you can't vote. Why should I have to show my ID twice? I showed it when I got my voter registration card. And why are student ID's not allowed but NRA cards are??

    The GOP can't win on their platform or their ideas so they cheat. Plain and simple. Then flip the script and swear the dems are cheating.

    April 30, 2014 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  15. Rudy NYC


    The voting system is not secure and is endangered when you can't verify a voter is an American Citizen or to ensure a person does not vote more than once. Total nonsense by the Federal Courts.
    There is nothing really wrong with requiring voters to show photo ID to vote at the polls. The problem is requiring it being fully aware that most voters in an entire demographic do not have the specified type of photo ID on short notice. Furthermore, making the required photo IDs more difficult to obtain is more wrong. States have passed ID laws, and then promptly reduced the hours and number of offices that provide the IDs. States have passed laws that reduce the number of polling places, relocated polling places, and reduced the hours for early voting. States have cut their budgets to produce the required forms of photo IDs. States have changed the requirements to obtains the photo IDs.

    The list goes on and on, but it all comes back to suddenly requiring specific forms of photo ID while rejecting others. In general states require a "state issued photo ID' card. A driver's license is acceptable, but what about the people too poor to afford a car. What about the people too old to drive a car? What about people who live in apartments in urban areas who really do not need a car?

    People can go about normal lives without need of a photo ID. You used to need a photo ID to write a check at a retail store, but now all you need is debit card and pin number. Photo IDs are more easily faked than a debit/credit card with a pin number. Maybe we should issue biometric ID cards that are PIN activated? Seems far more secure to me.

    April 30, 2014 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
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