Mar 18, 2012

Appellate Court Refuses to Stay Injunction on GOP's Polling Place Photo ID Obstruction

"The right to vote belongs to all Wisconsin citizens who are qualified electors, not just the fortunate majority from whom Act 23 poses little obstacle at the polls."
- Dane County Circuit Court Judge Richard Niess in League of Women Voters v. Walker

By Ernest A. Canning at the BradBlog

On Friday, an intermediate Wisconsin appellate court denied a request made by WI Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R), on behalf of Gov. Scott Walker's administration, to stay an order issued earlier this month by a Dane County Circuit Court that temporarily suspended the state GOP's polling place Photo ID law.

In Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP v. Walker --- the first of two cases within the past two weeks to result in an injunction on the voting restrictions, known as "Act 23", enacted by a Republican-majority last year --- Judge David Flanagan temporarily enjoined enforcement of the law on the grounds that it was in violation of the WI Constitution's guaranteed right to vote.

As of now, that injunction will still stand. In the bargain, local election officials are now seeking to comply with Judge Flanagan's order, so that Photo ID will not be required at the polls in the statewide April primary elections, upcoming recall elections scheduled for May and June, or for the 2012 general election this November.

Unless the denial of a stay is promptly reversed by the partisan Republican majority on the WI Supreme Court, the ruling could have an immediate adverse impact on the ability of the state's controversial Governor, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and the Republican state Senators facing upcoming recall elections to retain office ... .

In the second case to result in an injunction, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Richard Niess found, in League of Women Voters v. Walker on Monday, that "The right to vote belongs to all Wisconsin citizens who are qualified electors, not just the fortunate majority from whom Act 23 poses little obstacle at the polls."

Judge Neiss, in granting his permanent injunction less than a week after the Flanagan decision, similarly ruled that the polling place Photo ID restrictions were in violation of the state Constitution. The difference in the two decisions was that Judge Neiss ruled that Act 23 was unconstitutional "on its face" --- that Wisconsin's Republican Governor and GOP-controlled Legislature impermissibly sought to "eliminate the right of suffrage altogether for certain constitutionally qualified voters."

Judge Flanagan, on the other hand, applied classic Equal Protection analysis based on "uncontested" evidence and testimony submitted to the court, demonstrating that the Photo ID law has a disparate impact on minorities, the poor, handicapped and the elderly and that obtaining photo IDs, for many, is unduly burdensome.

His decision also determined that the Photo ID restriction was not rationally related to a legitimate government interest (let alone narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling governmental interest --- the higher scrutiny mandated when dealing with a fundamental right), given the absence of evidence of in-person voter fraud. In-person voter impersonation is the the only type of voter fraud which can be prevented by polling place photo ID laws. ...

Consider the words of Paul Weyrich, a co-founder of ALEC, the billionaire-funded organization that has drafted the models for voter suppressing photo ID laws.

"I don't want everybody to vote," Weyrich admitted while addressing a right-wing Christian audience in 1980 (see haunting video at right). "Our leverage in the elections goes up as the voting populace goes down," he added after denigrating those who seek "good government" through maximum, informed voter participation, as people who suffer from what he described as "goo goo syndrome."

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