Feb 17, 2014

Suit Against Voter ID Law Hits Obstruction of Military Veterans by GOP

Oh, you're a veteran; 'get lost,' say Republicans
Plaintiff Carl Ellis, a homeless black Milwaukee veteran wants to vote in the future, but if Republicans have their way Ellis and his military service can take a hike because Ellis, in GOP land, has no right to vote!

In an amended post-trial brief in the federal suit Frank v. Walker Post-trial brief challenging Wisconsin's Voter ID Law, civil rights advocates hit Scott Walker and the GOP for "Arbitrarily and Unreasonably Burden(ing) Voting Rights of Veterans ... ."

The amended brief was filed last month.

The brief reads in part:

C. Act 23 Arbitrarily and Unreasonably Burdens Voting Rights of Veterans and Technical College Students (Claims/Classes 4 and 6)

Voters are entitled to be free of arbitrary state action, and burdens imposed on the right to vote must be balanced against the asserted state interests.  It is well-settled that arbitrary and therefore “‘invidious’ distinctions cannot be enacted without a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.” Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 30 (1968).

The burden imposed by Act 23 on veterans and technical college student is simply not  “necessary,” Anderson, 460 U.S. at 789, or justified by any “important regulatory interest[],” Burdick, 504 U.S. at 434. The state has articulated no rational basis, much less a necessary or important interest, for refusing to accept secure photo ID issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs when it accepts ID issued by the U.S. military, when both are federal documents with voters’ names and photographs, and when both may lack expiration dates. Similarly, no interest was proffered for seeking to block the use of photo ID from Wisconsin’s two year technical colleges, when those IDs have identical indicia of reliability (name, photo, expiration date within two years from date of issuance) to IDs from other Wisconsin colleges.
1. Act 23 Arbitrarily Excludes the Use of VA ID for Voting (Claim/Class 6) After leaving the military, many veterans receive secure VA IDs, with the veterans’ names and photographs, that are used for matters such as obtaining health care from this federal agency. For years Ellis had only VA ID, and Davis and Newcomb still have only VA ID. States like Indiana allow voters to use VA ID, and Kennedy recommended that Act 23 include VA ID, but the law does not do so. (Sec. I.B.2.)

Act 23’s exclusion of VA ID places severe burdens on veterans who have only VA ID, many of whom, Defendants know, are homeless or marginally housed. (Id.) This includes Ellis, who struggled to get a DMV-issued ID for nearly two years, making numerous trips to multiple agencies to get his birth certificate, and ID. (Sec. I.C.3.) Davis, who is unemployed, and Newcomb, a housekeeper also caring for his children who were involved in a serious accident, have tried but not succeeded in getting DMV-issued ID. (Secs. I.A, I.C.1, I.C.2.a.)

At trial, Defendants articulated no state interest, let alone an “important” one, in refusing to accept this form of secure federal ID. Nor did the State articulate any interest in forcing these veterans to expend time and money obtaining a different photo ID to vote, much less a sufficient interest to justify this burden. See Burdick, 504 U.S. at 434 (citing Anderson, 460 U.S. at 788). In prior briefs, the State hypothesized that the lack of an expiration date on VA ID might justify the exclusion. (Dkt. 38 at 21.) But Act 23 authorizes the use of other forms of photo ID without expiration dates, including some military and tribal ID cards. (Secs. I.B.1.d,e.) It also allows the use of DMV-issued ID with 16-year-old photos. (Sec. I.B.1.a.) Thus the exclusion of VA ID has no evident or articulated purpose other than imposing an unnecessary burden on some veterans, or keeping them from voting. Defendants therefore have violated the Equal Protection Clause.

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