Aug 26, 2013

Altering of online Wisconsin Constitution; Is LRB Going GOP?

Updated - New LRB page on Suffrage.

Updated - I was surprised to find in the online Wisconsin Constitution's webpage on Suffrage (Section III, aka voting) changes have been made to support the GOP's Wisconsin Attorney General-GOP's position on photo voter ID.

Weird to find annotations in the Constitution to a federal voting rights case directly refuting the clear language on the Wisconsin Constitution.

So, this morning I spoke with Bruce Hoesly, Revising Attorney/Code Editor at the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB).

Hoesly says he updates the website for the Wisconsin Constitution.

Hoesly has worked at the LRB for 22 years, he said.

Hoesly appeared not very well-versed on the Wisconsin Constitution this morning on a phone call.


The following misleading sentence has been added to the online Wisconsin Constitution's Voting Section, III: "An Indiana statute requiring citizens voting in person on election day, or casting a ballot in person at the office of the circuit court clerk prior to election day, to present photo identification issued by the government did not violate constitutional standards. Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 553 U.S. 181, 128 S. Ct. 1610, 170 L. Ed. 2d 574 (2008)." (emphasis mine) [The webpage reads "Current through May 21, 2013" at the bottom of the page.]

This appears a naked display on what used to be a non-political webpage on the Wisconsin Constitution maintained under the auspices of the Wisconsin Reference Bureau (LRB). 


So I asked the LRB's attorney Hoesly why the page has been altered to reflect AG Van Hollen's ludicrous spin that Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (a federal case relying on a reading of the U.S. Constitution) should be added under the online Wisconsin Constitution's text, with its broad guarantee to vote vis a vis the United States Constitution.

Van Hollen's office had issued a press release dated July 19, 2012 reading in part: "Voter identification helps ensure election integrity.  It is a measure that protects the right to vote. And similar election integrity reforms have been upheld as constitutional by the United States Supreme Court."

After Hoesly denied anything partisan is afoot, I asked Hoesly should he not adopt some "rigor" into adding editorial comment under the Wisconsin Constitution's text on voting rights, in light of his inserted language about Crawford.

Hoesly said, "no," adding, "I don't believe it (editing the text of online Wisconsin Constitution) deserves more rigor."

I asked Hoesly, the relevancy of Artcile III of the Wisconsin Constitution to the federal case, Crawford.

Hoesly replied, "I'm not an expert on Article III (of the Wisconsin Constitution)," adding that he thought of the Crawford language "that it might be useful to readers."

I pointed out to Hoesly that Crawford relies on the U.S. Constitution while the ruling currently enjoining Wisconsin photo voter ID relies on the Wisconsin Constitution guaranteeing the right to vote.

Hoesly's response is babble.

So, why the Republican spin in Hoesly's language on a page that is supposed to be the online text of Wisconsin Constitution? 

Corruption is my guess. 

The GOP-added sentence to Suffrage is misleading for several reasons. Here again is a summary:

1. Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (2008) is a federal case based upon a facial challenge (a law asserted to be illegal or unconstitutional on its face) to an Indiana state law obstructing voting.  
Crawford relied upon the weak warrant to vote under the United States Constitution, not the Wisconsin Constitution. And the Crawford case included no social scientific evidence as was presented in
Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP v. Walker (Case 11CV5492) (2012).

2. The Wisconsin Constitution—the topic of the Wisconsin Constitution's webpage—includes a strong, affirmative right to vote under ARTICLE III, Suffrage vis a vis the United States Constitution. (Hence, U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Keith Ellison's (D-MN) Right to Vote Amendment, explicitly guaranteeing Americans' right to vote in the U.S. Constitution." Hey, Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-White People), still waiting for your support of the Right to Vote Amendment in light of your unshakable commitment of voting rights.

3. The Wisconsin Constitution explicitly specifies the type of laws that may be enacted to regulate elections, enumerating the specific conditions under which the qualifications of voters (electors) may be changed by the enactment of laws under Section 2, and only Section 2. Anything outside this scope and the legislature has to change the Wisconsin Constitution.

This GOP pretension that the federal case, Crawford, controls Wisconsin state voting rights case is a disingenuous political talking point, hawked by Wisconsin's GOP Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen and other GOP politicos.

As Judge David T. Flanagan writes in striking down the GOP Photo Voter ID bill in July 2012 in Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP v. Walker (Case 11CV5492):

The Crawford decision has very little application to the dispute now before this Court, however, for three primary reasons. First, this case is founded up the Wiscosnin Constitution which expressly guarantees the right to vote, while Crawford was based upon the U.S. Constitution which offers no such guarantee. Second, the Indiana law is less rigid than Act 23, and noted by the U.S. Supreme Court, offered alternative voting opportunities to voters who lacked the Photo ID. Finally, Crawford came to the Court based upon a flawed factual record, lacking the substantial evidence that has been offered by the plaintiffs in this action. This case is based on a claim that Act 23 violates the Wisconsin Constitution, not the U.S. Constitution. The people of Wisconsin may choose to assure to themselves rights under their own constitution that differ or exceed those guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, State v. Doe, 78 Wis 2d 161, 172 (1977). The question of what is permitted and what is protected by the Wisconsin Constitution is the issue before this court and that issue was not before the U.S. Supreme Court in the Crawford case.
This is not the first time Van Hollen and the Republican Party have lied about federal law and federal case law in order to obstruct voting rights on the state level.

See Van Hollen's and the GOP 2008 efforts at voter suppression in which Van Hollen's similarly ridiculous effort was tossed out of court.

In the 2008 case, (J B Van Hollen vs. Government Accountability Board (GAB) et al) Van Hollen tried to create a new Wisconsin constitutional qualification to vote by fiat: A perfect match of the spelling of voters' names in state bureaucracies, after assuring fellow Republicans he would commence this frivolous legal action at the 2008 Republican National Convention held in Minneapolis, as first reported by WisPolitics in a scoop that includes audio.

Several former judges serving on the GAB Board would have failed Van Hollen's new constitutional standard proposed in 2008, as this GOP effort drew wide ridicule.

"Nothing in state or federal law requires that there be a data match as a prerequisite for a citizen's right to vote," Judge Maryann Sumi said in dismissing Van Hollen's lawsuit that tried to use the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) as a voter suppression tool.

Our corrupt attorney general, up for reelection on 2014, will not give up his Party's project of denying the voting rights of Wisconsin citizens; and neither will the Republican Party now holding sway in the gerrymandered state legislature, and it would appear in the
Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB)

Non-GOP-fixed Section III on the Wisconsin Constitution on Suffrage - Voting 


  1. Crawford might have become relevant to Article III if it had been decided the other way and the SCOTUS had found that some of Article III's protections also existed in the Fourteenth Amendment. There are plenty of examples of Federal cases being cited as relevant to various other parts of the Wisconsin Constitution since the latter has many entries that exactly parallel parts of the Federal Constitution (and sometimes even verbatim).

    But clearly Article III has no parallel at the national level and that absence has no bearing at the state level per the Tenth Amendment. It's exactly like pointing out Thailand's lèse-majesté laws when discussing Article I Section 3 - curious perhaps, but pointless.

    1. I wondering too the news value of the Wiscosnin LRB becoming partisan, but the LRP is supposed to be independent and impartial and has been prior to Scott Walker and the Republicans taking over; now they run a GOP talking point after online text of the Wisconsin Constitution?

      Also worth noting are other GOP attempts to rewrite Wisconsin history which I cannot enumerate without burning some people.