Sep 12, 2014

Panel Hears Scott Walker's Desperate Plea to Reinstate Voter ID 53 Days Before Election Day

Seventh Circuit Reinstates Wisconsin's Photo Voter ID Law 53 Days from Election Day

Update: Oral arguments are up online; 14-2058  Ruthelle Frank v. Scott Walker.

Questioning the wisdom and practicality of lifting Judge Lynn Adelman's permanent injunction of  Wisconsin's restrictive Photo Voter ID law (Act 23) a three-judge appellate panel has left uncertainty over whether the law will be in force during the coming November election in 53 days.

After some analysis, mal contends asserts lifting Judge Adelman's injunction would be an outrage for an appellate circuit that prides itself on scholarly opinions, so one can rest easy. Look for a quick decision denying Scott Walker's attempt to shrink the Wisconsin electorate.

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit is not the Wisconsin Supreme Court, a discredited institution with about the same creditability as the Wisconsin State Assembly.

The case, Walker v. Frank (consolidated with a case bought by the Wisconsin chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens) was heard this morning by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Oral arguments will be available online this afternoon at the Court's site.

The three judges hearing the case today are Judges Frank Easterbrook, Diane Sykes (rightwing activist appointed by W. Bush) and John Tinder (rightwing activist appointed by W. Bush).

Judge Dianne Sykes questioning the voting rights attorney, John Ulin, opined that the voters had won a "whooper" of a remedy in Adelman's injunction, reports Patrick Marley of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Sykes also noted the Dept of Justice attorney was asking for lifting a stay on the "eve of an election."

At a federal trial last year, Judge Adelman found zero cases of voter impersonation (a finding of fact admitted by the Dept of Justice attorney at trial) and a mountain of social scientific evidence that as many 300,000 eligible and registered Wisconsin voters could lose their right to vote should Wisconsin's Act 23 be given the green light and Adelman's injunction be stayed during further adjudication in federal court.

"He took evidence and found the Supreme Court was wrong," Easterbrook said referring to the Crawford vs. Marion County Elections Board case (2008).

Easterbrook is likely pointing out that vis a vis Crawford, Walker v. Frank (and the consolidated case) feature a mountain of social scientific evidence presented at trial and on the record.

As attorney Earnest Canning notes this May in the Brad Blog: Crawford used the "Anderson/Burdick test, which requires the courts, on a case-by-case basis, to measure a law's potential damage to voters' right to vote, against the specific claims made by the state as to why such additional burdens and restrictions are necessary."

Applied to the Wisconsin voter ID law, it was established at trial that zero cases of impersonation voter fraud exists versus 100,000s of eligible Wisconsin voters losing their franchise to vote under Act 23.

This would certainly suggest a likelihood of success for voting rights advocates in further federal litigation and point for maintaining the injunction.

Canning notes, "As Judge Adelman observed, Crawford lacked a 'majority opinion'" --- that is an opinion in which five Justices agreed on the reasons for the decision. Instead, there were four separate opinions: a lead opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens (joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy), a concurring opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia (joined by Justices Thomas and Alito), a dissenting opinion written by Justice David Souter (joined by Justice Ginsburg) and a separate dissent by Justice Breyer."

Justice Stevens writes that Crawford is "is state-specific and record-specific."

Judge Adelman writes the state interest in detecting and deterring alleged voter fraud is vanishingly small "because virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin and it is exceedingly unlikely that voter impersonation will become a problem in Wisconsin in the foreseeable future, this particular state interest has very little weight." (p.11)

To get an idea of how restrictive Wisconsin's Act 23 is, consider that a Wisconsin polling worker (election inspector) who wears a photo ID issued by the municipality for whom she works would not be able to cast a vote under Act 23 if she showed up for work without further identification.

Wisconsin Act 23 was passed with exclusive Republican support and signed into law in 2011 as a voter obstruction measure that would add some two to three minutes to each voter's reporting to the voter roll's table, stating her name and address and then presenting her ID.

The ID is then checked by two election inspectors who check dates, photo resemblance, check against acceptable photo IDs before handing a voter number and sending the voter to the ballot table to pick up a ballot.

In a high turnout election such as this coming general election, the lines would be vastly increased and polling places will be understaffed, as rightwing voter observers stood three feet behind the voting rolls' tables and loudly voiced opinions. [The latter will happen.]

Confusion, frustration and obstruction remain Republican objectives.

Voter ID in Wisconsin likely will be one objective unmet.

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