May 30, 2013

GOP's New Voter Suppression Effort—Negation of Wisconsin's Expansive Right to Vote

Update: The 4th District Court of Appeals in Madison just issued a narrow ruling overturning Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess' order finding the voter ID law unconstitutional on its face in 2012. No jurist contacted expected this unanimous three-judge ruling.

In a separate case, Judge David Flanagan had permanently and immediately halted enforcement and implementation of the Republicans' voter ID-obstruction act in Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP et al v. Walker (Case 11CV5492) after a trial in 2012.

The Voter ID law remains halted from taking effect, and in the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin v. Walker (Case 11CV4669) ruling just struck down may result in the voting rights groups waiting to see how the two federal court cases challenging the voter obstruction law are settled.

Voter IDs are unconstitutional under the Wisconsin Constitution, so the new GOP voter ID initiative mandates two new, extra-constitutional requirements for citizens to vote

What if we lived in a democracy where the right to vote is guaranteed in the Constitution?

The state of Wisconsin is such a democracy; the United States of America, not so much.

Hence, the emergence of Democratic Party efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution to guarantee the right to vote affirmatively and categorically, as the Wisconsin Constitution does.

The effort is led by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN).

But protecting the vote has met a cold reception from Wisconsin and national Republicans.

No Republican in Congress to this point has joined in the effort to protect voting, and in the states, Republican aversion to voting is worse.

Why would that be?

One obvious answer is that Republicans are busy obstructing the vote, an objective running counter to the effort to protect the vote.

The current project by Wisconsin Republicans resumes their party's attack on the wrong kind of people voting.

The GOP has made the correct assessment that the corporate press will play stenographer and uncritically run GOP lies on alleged voter fraud and voter IDs in support of the GOP effort to obstruct the vote.

Thus there are little immediate political consequences, beyond further aggravating college students, minorities, working class families, and civil libertarians (aka liberals) who have historically voted for Democrats. This is exactly the reason why the GOP wants to repress them from voting.

But the Wisconsin Constitution remains, specifically Article III, Section 1: "Every United States citizen age 18 or older who is a resident of an election district in this state is a qualified elector of that district."

Facing this Wisconsin Constitution, Republicans are desperately trying to get around the fact that Republicans can produce ZERO voter fraud prosecutions of "voter fraud violation(s) that would have been prevented by the voter ID requirements of Act 23, (the GOP's voter ID law)," as Judge David Flanagan ruled in his permanent injunction order issued of July 17, 2012.

This reality extends across the nation, but has not permeated the political consciousness of the body politic, so the GOP will simply emit comments that voter IDs are "common sense," with the assurance that the press will not call them on this nonsense.

But voter IDs are unconstitutional under the Wisconsin Constitution, so (as been noted) the new voter ID initiative mandates two new, extra-constitutional requirements for citizens to vote: A voter's vocal oath administered only by the Chief Election Inspector, and then a voter's signing of an additional written statement explaining why he or she does not have an ID.

This alternative is intended to present a convoluted path to vote so that registered, constitutionally qualified voters can vote so long as they do not mind this per se harassment and humiliation, an elevated public scrutiny of voters' qualifications as Wisconsin citizens, intended to input confusion, frustration, and ultimately disenfranchisement into the voting process.

This is an undue burden on some registered, constitutionally qualified voters, and after the Republicans ram this new voter obstruction bill into law, it ought to be struck down as unconstitutional, and not some harmless exercise in regulating elections. It will be, while the legislature ignores other much-needed policy discussion and enactment.

As Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess wrote in striking down the GOP's voter ID law as unconstitutional on its face in March  2012:

Our Constitution is a line in the sand drawn by the sovereign authority in this state - the people of Wisconsin - that the legislature, governor and the courts may not cross ... (.) Where does the Wisconsin Constitution say that the government we, the people, created can simply cast aside the inherent rights of any qualified elector on the wish and promise - even the guarantee - that doing so serves to prevent some unqualified individuals from voting.

It doesn't. In fact, it unequivocally says the opposite. The right to vote belongs to all Wisconsin citizens who are qualified electors, not just the fortunate majority for whom Act 23 [the voter ID law] poses little obstacle at the polls.
This new GOP obstacle -- mandated harassment and public scrutiny of some voters -- crosses the constitutional line in the sand to further the GOP's partisan objectives.   Perhaps, a trial will need to be held on this new law after it is passed and signed, to show the damage the law would do.  

Meanwhile, the GOP will call trashing the Wisconsin Constitution "common sense," but crafting new ways to get around the sovereign authority in this state -- the people of Wisconsin -- is unwise, unjust and unconstitutional. It also is not what the people of Wisconsin sent these legislators to Madison to do -- it is frivolous and wasting time when there are -- or should be -- urgent items on the agenda.

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