Feb 10, 2011

Wisconsin Voter ID Legal Challenge Likely

Republicans buzzing that the Party will pass the nation's most restrictive voter ID legislation—obstructing and suppressing Democratically leaning voters—ought to ease up on their unseemly celebrating.

Update: See Bill May Deny Legal Voters Access to the Franchise and the Brennan Center for Justice for developments on legal challenges to the bill signed May 25, 2011.

The voter suppression bill will be litigated and likely prevented from taking effect. And at least some of its noxious provisions likely will be ultimately struck down as unconstitutional under the Wisconsin Constitution; hence the concomitant effort to amend the Wisconsin Constitution, and another bill to stop same-day registration of Wisconsin citizens.

A federal court challenge seems unlikely as one effect of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (No 07-21) (2008) upholding an Indiana voter ID law is that "future challenges to voter laws must be filed with respect to the application of a specific law—after its controversial mandates are already applied in an election," as noted by the Brennan Center, a leading civil rights organization. [See also Justin Levitt's The Truth About Voter Fraud.]

Voting is not very well protected under federal Constitutional law.

Voting is however, extremely well protected under Wisconsin Constitutional law.

The last time Wisconsin's partisan Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen, engineered a major public effort to obstruct voters, Van Hollen lost and his desperate lawsuit was thrown out never to see the Courts again.

Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi's opinion in 2008 tossing Van Hollen's suppression case instructs today on the weight the Wisconsin Constitution and other Wisconsin statutes place on the right of citizens to cast votes [See Sumi's Opinion - Order and Hearing Transcript (Case No 08CV4085)].

Writes Sumi citing an early Wisconsin Supreme Court case protecting voters:

"The [Wisconsin Constitution] vests and warrants the right to vote at the time of election, and everyone having the constitutional qualifications then may to go the polls vested with this franchise, of which no statutory condition precedent can deprive him." [Wood v. Baker]

There is no clause in the Wisconsin Constitution that says you need a photo ID to vote.

Sumi, speaking from the bench in 2008, also cites a 2004 case bearing on the current voter obstruction law.
[T]he Supreme Court four years ago pretty cogently summarized what the law is. The court ... concluded in Roth v. LaFarge School District Board of Canvassers in 2004, this is Justice Crooks speaking for a unanimous court: It is evident, the court said, noting Wisconsin's proud history of protecting the right to vote, 'It is evident that this court has constantly placed a premium on giving effect to the will of the voter.' And not just the will of the voter with respect to whether there's a checkmark in the right place, whether, if we were in Florida, hanging chads, or any other formal problem, but the will of the voter in terms of the ability to go to the polls, vested with the franchise [to vote].
Political Consequences

Even given the God-awful communication strategies of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, it ought to become clear that the GOP-imposed burdens placed disproportionally upon the majority poorer, ethnic minorities (especially blacks in Milwaukee County), elderly, busy working families and rural voters (all of whom are less likely to have photo IDs) is an unacceptable barrier to voters being able to go to the polls, vested with the franchise to vote.

This is a years-long, national GOP effort and Republicans and Tea Partiers have their marching orders.

What is disgusting, even sad, is the disdain shown for democracy and duplicity involved.

I know Republicans who know very well exactly what this voter obstruction project is, and yet they have no remorse in lying; in fact, lying to my face.

The fact is political lies are still lies.
And one suspects that this lying, anti-democratic GOP program will offend most Wisconsin citizens' sense of fairness.

Sure, the Republican Party is simply after power.

But there is something uglier that the GOP uses to carry out this project: Racism.

The idea that a bunch of blacks and Latinos are out there voting will never sit well with many Republicans who—even as we approach 2012—are committed to a whites-only club in Wisconsin politics. You want to vote? How much money you make?

On a personal note, I grew up in a small Wisconsin city where 'nigger jokes' were frequent throughout Elementary school, and indeed through the public school experience. This racist culture is still very much with us in Wisconsin today.

The problem is kids picked up this culture at home. A worse problem is many of these children never grew up to realize that as an adult human being and Wisconsin citizen you have rights; and you stand up for the rights of those with whom you may disagree of whatever color or creed.

Let's hope this sentiment carries the day; and the Democratic Party communications team gets its act together fast. Better yet, Republicans dissenting from this despicable voter suppression project: We need your voice now.

1 comment:

  1. Well researched. I feel a little better about the upcoming court challenge. You didn't mention the disfranchisement of students, perhaps the most revealing ploy of the Voter ID law.