May 29, 2013

Republicans Reintroduce Voter ID Mandate Already Found Unconstitutional

The Republican Party's war on voting continues in Wisconsin.

The objective in a new GOP initiative is to make voting such a pain that voters will grow discouraged and give up in the face of longer lines and confusion.

While Dee Hall of the Wisconsin State Journal flacks for another Republican Party attempt to obstruct Wisconsin voters from voting, Republicans are reintroducing a bill mandating photo IDs as a precondition to vote.

Absent a photo ID, the GOP's soon-to-be-introduced bill demands 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.

This is proposed state harassment of a minority of Wisconsin voters for not having an ID, pure and simple.

Hall writes, that the "voter ID requirement, passed in 2011, has been tied up in the courts and currently is not in effect."

Tied up in the courts is a misleading way to describe the status of one political party's (and only one—the Republicans') attack on voting.

Actually, the voter ID law has been found to be unconstitutional by two separate state courts; has been heard in a trial held in state circuit court in 2012; has been found to be unconstitutional on its face by a second circuit court; and faces two more challenges in federal court, including a trial scheduled to be heard in federal court in 2013.

Hall's fallacious reporting on voter ID represents the best in the Wisconsin corporate press on the topic.

The new GOP move comes one month after the introduction of another GOP bill, Assembly Bill 161 (and Senate Bill 154), that would by law negate a judicial finding of a statute like voter ID ruled unconstitutional, if Republicans object to the judicial ruling.

"This Republican bill is the single largest assault on voter rights our state has ever seen," writes Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director, referring to the flurry of proposed changes to Wisconsin elections and restrictions on voting supporting solely by Republicans.

This new GOP-proposed precondition to voting in Wisconsin is that already-registered and constitutionally qualified voters who do not possess GOP-prescribed voter ids, must instead take a vocal oath or affirmation administered by the Chief Election Inspector, and then sign an additional written statement explaining why voter ids are not possessed.

There is only one Chief Election Inspector at one polling place, and typically she is busy and overworked during heavy-turn-out elections.

The resulting delays and confusion at polling places during heavy-turn-out elections would of course result in long lines and voter discouragement, which are precisely the Republican Party's longstanding objectives.

Wisconsin has an expansive, constitutionally guaranteed right to vote in the Wisconsin Constitution, Article III, Section 1, reading in part: "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."

In state court, Judge David Flanagan has 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) in a July 2012 decision.

Writes Flanagan: "Act 23 (Wisconsin Voter ID law) addresses a problem which is very limited, if it indeed exists. It does not appear to recognise or to account for the difficulty its demands impose upon indigent and elderly citizens who are eligible under the constitution to vote. It offers no flexibility, no alternative to prevent the exclusion of a constitutionally qualified voter. Given the sacred, fundamental interest at issue, it is clear that Act 23, while perhaps addressing a legitimate concern, is not sufficiently narrow to avoid needless and significant impairment of the right to vote. The enactment steps beyond the proper authority of the legislature and is in violation of the Wisconsin Constitution, Article III, Section 1."

The new GOP bill is an attempt to get around the Wisconsin Constitution's sacred right to vote, and in the process serve the GOP objectives of suppressing Wisconsin voters for GOP partisan advantage.

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