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. col

    How is it unconstitutional to require ID to vote? You have to show ID for much less important things...

    April 29, 2014 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  2. what a joke this is

    The reason why they allow illegals to vote is to take away our civil liberties. They vote for handouts and that's what your government wants before they make you pay up in a FEMA camp.

    April 29, 2014 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  3. frank

    I would suspect that if there is voter fraud, it would be done by "snow-birds"! By folks showing I.D.'s, this problem would not be served.

    April 29, 2014 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  4. Chris

    Fraudulently cast ballots, no matter how frequent or infrequent, disenfranchise lawful voters.

    Suppose I legally cast a vote for candidate A. Someone then illegally votes for A's opponent, candidate B. That someone has just negated my vote. For all practical purposes, my vote did not count. Does that sound fair?

    April 29, 2014 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  5. don in albuquerque

    First lose your vote, then you will lose your guns. Morons.

    April 29, 2014 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  6. moakley

    In the 2012 election the biggest voter fraud was facilitated by the absentee ballot. Yet across the GOP state houses that have passed laws intended to prevent voter fraud not one of them addresses the ease by which voter fraud can be committed using the absentee ballot. Why is that? Could it be that more absentee voters vote republican than democrat? Yep.

    April 29, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  7. bilbilbit

    I was born in a 3rd world country and immigrated to the United States (legally, I might add). I have a hard time understanding why voter ID laws are even a topic of discussion. When lining up for the ballots you see people of all walks of life: You see poor people, you see middle class people, and you see rich people as well. Several years ago when I visited my home country I took the opportunity to update my ID since the government recently required everyone to update their IDs to a newer format. Again, there were people of all walks of life lining up to update their IDs. I guess my point is that even in a poor, 3rd world country with poor transportation systems and income inequality that is FAR WORSE than the United States, poor people are required to present an ID in order to vote. Why cant poor american people (Who live MUCH MORE comfortably than poor people in 3d world countries) take the bus and get proper identification?

    April 29, 2014 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  8. Jack Sommersby

    If Republicans were merely interested in requiring ID, that's fine. But when they want to eliminate early-voting days and hours because the majority of those people vote Democrat, that's an entirely different story.

    April 29, 2014 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  9. Buster

    North Carolina is reporting that 150,000 voter registration have the exact same name and social security number as people who registered in adjacent states. The fraud is rampant – that is why democrats got so many votes in 2012. Holder will sweep it under the rug.

    April 29, 2014 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  10. texasmike

    Hey al, why is her being a democrat automatically make an unconstitutional law constitutional. What is WITH you freaks? Why do you need to cheat so much? Its as if half the country has forgotten this is the United States of America not some rightwing plutocracy.

    April 29, 2014 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  11. Name usaf

    I went to the store and bought alcohol. They demanded a picture ID. This is minority oppression! Call your Senator!!! Where is CNN!

    April 29, 2014 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  12. wolf

    How is proving your identity such a big issue? TN has voter ID laws but gives FREE IDs if someone does not have a photo license already. Sorry, but I fail to see how this singles out African Americans since no part of that says "If you're black, you can't do this."

    April 29, 2014 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  13. Thom

    It was overkill.....and so the bill was killed ........ I always thought that citizens should use their SS# to vote and the system would only let you use it once in the USA....in the state it's currently being used in for work, retirement, or unemployment.

    April 29, 2014 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  14. behaviorquest

    Who are these people making these ridiculous arguments about voter fraud? Where I vote they find my name, have me sign and that's it. I have never seen anyone else's signature on the forms and have never voted twice. This is about right wing attempts to control certain citizens that they suppose will vote a certain way. Case closed.

    April 29, 2014 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  15. zandhcats

    In Texas, the local government accept the gun permit(no photo) to vote but reject student id(no photo) for validation.

    April 29, 2014 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  16. John

    Interesting. I just read an article this morning that stated people were denied the right to vote in the Iraqi elections here in the U.S. because they lacked proper ID and yet it is such a big deal to the liberals. In case you have not been to the doctor, had a blood test, been hospitalized recently, Obamacare now require you present a picture ID and your insurance card. There is also now a provision that they take your picture to prevent insurance fraud but not voting fraud? What is wrong with this picture?

    April 29, 2014 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  17. Marcus (from...?)

    freaknic – The lady's name is Melowese Richardson. We all know all about her. So it's ONE case (she voted six times but it's still only one person doing it), any other you'd like to share with us?
    Remember, given the amount of MONEY spent on the issue there should be enough cases that it would be a bit harder to pick the one you were referring to...
    The point is NOT the fact that these laws demands an ID with a Picture, but that the requirements to get the ID end up throwing people away from the lists. Give enough MONEY and PEOPLE to be there when VOTERS show up to pay and get their IDs and it's fine by me.
    But what are these governos doing? Cutting people and resources (even hours of 'open to public'!) in the departments that provide the IDs THEY recognize as valid.

    April 29, 2014 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  18. Dan

    Republicans are hellbent on becoming extinct.The sooner the better.

    April 29, 2014 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  19. Robert

    The only solution is to march all democrats to the wall and let fly.

    April 29, 2014 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  20. William

    Bless their hearts, If you get welfare in Texas you have a Id. If your are illegal you don't have an Id and should not vote what the minorities want there to vote as. @ GonzoininHouston how are you driving there to get the Id?

    April 29, 2014 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  21. SGT Rock101

    Thank God they did this.

    April 29, 2014 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  22. TK

    al................i guess you forgot that the people that voted for voter id laws are republicans and will do anything to restrict blacks, hispanics and democrats from voting, and to think republicans would like for blacks and hispanics to vote for them but try to restrict their access to voting ...........how dumb is that!

    April 29, 2014 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  23. Hackman5

    Yea, why would we want to verify who is voting?

    April 29, 2014 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  24. noteasilyswayed

    Since gerrymandering is not effective enough, the Repubs now want to prevent people from voting....... and the Democrats want to insure that anyone that wants to vote can do so, whether they are eligible or not. Neither side is interested in anything but pushing whatever makes it more likely for them to win.

    April 29, 2014 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  25. ghostwriter

    Conservative logic:

    Let's put all our hopes and dreams into legislation to prevent a massive outbreak of voting fraud that we cannot prove exists by implementing ID laws that can be circumvented by anyone visiting a college campus to purchase a fake ID for $50.

    April 29, 2014 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
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