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

    Ok, so let's provide them the necessary transportation to go get the required Identification.

    State ID's Are easy to get and in many states are required once acquired most states give them to you for life or extremely long terms compared to Driver's Licenses. The only requirement is that they have to prove a right to vote, meaning they need to prove they were born in the united states. What is the issue.. Oh hell why not give them the ID for free.

    April 29, 2014 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  2. rude

    My father had a tough time voting, when state took his license when he went blind he was very angry they did not reimburse his money as the license was recently issued and he refused to pay for an ID. There is hardly any voter fraud and if you follow the news it's mostly Republicans. It is more than obvious they want to put hurdles to curtail the voting of the poor who are usually apathetic.

    April 29, 2014 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  3. Ben

    I am from Wisconsin. I am a Democrat and I think this is bunk. Adelman is not even a Democrat. He is a socialist and has made comments against voter ID and should have recused himself.

    April 29, 2014 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  4. brownbuttonglutton

    Activist judge . This will get over turned by a higher court. No more democrat voter fraud.

    April 29, 2014 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  5. GOP2016

    Why is it you need a government issued photo ID to do just about everything – except for what should probably be the one thing you really should be required to have a photo ID for – to vote!

    All the courts that have struck down these laws say that it puts an undo burden on voters – what a crock! You need a photo ID to drive a car, get on an airplane to go anywhere, to cash a check and even to check out a book at a library but they say you should not have to produce to vote!

    April 29, 2014 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  6. Al Rex

    To see a Doctor you need ID card. In a Hospital at registration you need an ID card. To get a room at a Motel you need an ID card. To get a drivers license you need your birth certificate and other picture ID card.To get Welfare,and most of these people are on welfare, you need a birth certificate or residence papers or naturalization papers.To get a driver's license you need the already mentioned papers or you get nothing. To open a Bank account you need ID cards. To vote you must be able to identify yourself and show that you're a U.S. Citizen which is easy to do if you're a Citizen.The fact is that Obama and Holder want illegal aliens and resident aliens who have no right to vote to be able to lie and cast their vote for the Democrats.

    April 29, 2014 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  7. Just

    People who don't have ID can't do anything except vote.

    April 29, 2014 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  8. DRJJJ

    If any county in the USA had more than 100% voter turn out, then it should be mandatory voter ID in the good ole USA! I've read several counties in Ohio and Florida had 125%+ turn out!

    April 29, 2014 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  9. Ken Knerr

    How do these poor, poor people cash their welfare check and buy their liquor without an ID?

    April 29, 2014 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  10. Patrick Portland

    Not really sure what the issue is – you have to show a photo ID to vote. States will issue photo ID's for those that do not have drivers' licenses...once again proves that there is no limit that dem's will go to to win an election....even fraudently.

    April 29, 2014 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  11. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Restricting poor, black and Latino voters is one of the GOP's key plans. It's nice to see this going down in flames, just like their party!

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

    If 2nd Amendment is an absolute right that many gun advocates are implying, shouldn't the right to vote also be absolute without infringement?

    April 29, 2014 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  13. steve

    How do people vote for those GOP scoundrel's in Wisconsin?Rise up, smell the coffee,and get rid of them!

    April 29, 2014 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  14. 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 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  15. Mary Astor

    The devil's in the details; in the case of voter ID's the state has complete control of ID requirements and access to appropriate offices. In parts of western or southern Texas, it can be a 3 hour or longer drive each way to an office that can issue the ID, and there's no guarantee they will issue it on the first trip.

    Yea, I guess that not only would preclude them from voting, but also from obtaining government benefits, opening bank accounts, driving legally, cashing checks, renting or buying a house, obtaining a marriage license, registering children in a public school...

    April 29, 2014 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  16. bribarian

    liberals gotta keep their illegals voting

    April 29, 2014 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  17. Constitutional conservative

    The only problem with this federal court's ruling is that the Supreme Court of the United States, in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board in 2008, has ruled that such laws are constitutional, even considering the small cost of getting an ID and without "sufficient" evidence of voter fraud, so long at the law allows for voters without to cast a provisional ballot. In light of this precedent (which was a 6-3 decision by the way) upholding a similar Indiana law, this opinion will certainly be overturned by the 7th Circuit. It's a shame that activist judges can't simply do what they are paid to do: apply the law, including Supreme Court precedent, faithfully and accurately.

    April 29, 2014 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  18. tiredofitall

    Can't require voter ID, can't make them show their voter's card??Gee, I thought they signed up when states signed them up for their WELFARE bennies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What difference does it make! the voting is rigged now more than ever our choices have become who is the lesser Loser!

    April 29, 2014 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  19. Nic_Driver

    Voting is not a privilege, it's the right of every citizen while carrying an ID is not a requirement of citizenship.

    April 29, 2014 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  20. Joe Hates Government

    Guess I can vote in both PA and MD than. Because I'm on the voter roles in both states. There is no requirement to inform anyone that I moved to another state. They don't ask for ID, so I can vote in the next election twice in different states! Yeah!!!

    April 29, 2014 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  21. Lisa P.


    It has a a "disproportionate impact" on those wishing to vote multiple times.
    April 29, 2014 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm

    Actually, Wisconsin already has a disproportionate impact in place for those who commit voter fraud: a $10,000 fine and up to three years in jail. Strangely, despite all the brouhaha, very few vote fraudsters have taken Wisconsin up on its' kind offer, and our Attorney General, despite being a notoriously partisan Republican who knows which side his bread is buttered on, has also found almost no fraudulent voters to impact upon (and none who tried to vote using another person's identity, the only kind of fraud that voter ID requirements would prevent).

    So why would Wisconsin Republicans vociferously promote a "solution" to a voter fraud problem that doesn't exist? It's would seem to be something of a mystery, until you also notice that their "solution" also disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of legitimate voters who don't happen to have any of the very few forms of ID that the Republican law would require, and discover that for some unfathomable reason the Republicans refuse to change their law to either allow more forms of ID (including sworn verification by two other known voters, a practice that was allowed in Wisconsin prior to this weaselly, cynical law) or to make getting their very few allowed forms much easier. Then you start to suspect that the "problem" the Republicans were interested in solving has a lot more to do with keeping hundreds of thousands of legitimate voters from voting once, rather than a few phantom fraudulent voters from supposedly voting multiple times. This weaselly, cynical Republican law is about rigging elections by keeping voters from the polls, not about keeping elections fair (which they already are) or restoring confidence in the vote (which this law only undermines).

    The only acceptable voter ID law is one that permits everyone who can vote a reasonable chance to vote. This weaselly, cynical piece of Republican legislative manipulation was never that law, and surely was never intended to be. Judge Adelman is right to slap it down for the fraud it is.

    April 29, 2014 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  22. US Army Medical Officer

    Thanks God that this voter suppression law was overturned. Sad to see that unelected judges are the last line of defense against this discrimination. I'm a Wisconsin resident. Usually, "bad" government does not affect me, but in Wisconsin this caused me to get a new passport at my personal expense to make sure I would not be turned away at the polls. The purpose of these laws is simple, they want to stop people from voting whom they do not like. This includes minorities, persons of color, women, students, elderly, disabled, women. Fellow Americans, do not listen to the voter fraud rhetoric. For all practical purposes it does not exist. These laws destroy our democracy at the most basic level, at the ballot box itself.

    April 29, 2014 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    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 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  24. Russ

    Obamafan, How does the most poor , who gets welfare , food stamps , medicare , section 8 , Obama phone , even survive without a state ID ?

    Obama Phone? Get your facts straight, it was George Bush who started the phone program. Obama just has not changed that policy. Dummies!!

    April 29, 2014 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  25. Mike

    ACORN voter fraud??? Remember that? If it was in that one state, what, Ohio (off the top of my head), then it stands to exist in other states as well. As we move on through time, we must modernize our laws. 100 years ago, this maybe wasn't so much of an issue. But with the millions of illegals in our country grabbing for everything as well as organizations who are trying to tilt elections in their favor (ACORN), I think the time is right to require a photo ID card. With all these people on food stamps, unemployment, and other assistance, how can they NOT have a photo ID? I had a photo ID at the age of 16 and got it for free. All it took was a 1 dollar bus ride and 15 minutes of my time at the office. Done.

    April 29, 2014 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
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