Judge cites race in strik­ing down voter ID law

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN AND STEPHEN DI­NAN

A federal judge re­opened the voter iden­ti­fi­ca­tion de­bate Tues­day when he struck down a new Wis­con­sin law, say­ing it dis­crim­i­nated against blacks and His­pan­ics, and re­new­ing doubts about the Repub­li­can push for stricter voting laws across the coun­try.

Democrats hailed the rul­ing and said they wanted it ex­panded to other ju­ris­dic­tions, but Wis­con­sin vowed to ap­peal.

Some le­gal an­a­lysts said Judge Lynn Adel­man’s de­ci­sion ap­pears to con­tra­dict a 2008 Supreme Court rul­ing that up­held a sim­i­lar law in In­di­ana.

Judge Adel­man said up to 300,000 Wis­con­sin res­i­dents — mostly blacks and His­pan­ics — could be turned away from polls as a re­sult of the ID re­quire­ment. He said his cal­cu­la­tion far out­num­bered po­ten­tial fraud­u­lent votes.

“Act 23 has a dis­pro­por­tion­ate im­pact on Black and Latino vot­ers be­cause it is more likely to bur­den those vot­ers with the costs of ob­tain­ing a photo ID that they would not other­wise ob­tain,” the judge wrote in a 90-page opin­ion that in­cluded de­tailed ap­pendixes lay­ing out his cal­cu­la­tions.

“This bur­den is sig­nif­i­cant not only be­cause it is likely to de­ter Blacks and Lati­nos from voting even if they could ob­tain IDs with­out much dif­fi­culty, but also be­cause Blacks and Lati­nos are more likely than whites to have dif­fi­culty ob­tain­ing IDs,” he wrote.

He said the voter ID leg­is­la­tion, signed by Gov. Scott Walker, a Repub­li­can, vi­o­lated the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which pro­hibits elec­tion laws that dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fect mi­nori­ties.

State At­tor­ney Gen­eral J.B. Van Hollen vowed to ap­peal the rul­ing.

“I am dis­ap­pointed with the or­der and con­tinue to be­lieve Wis­con­sin’s law is con­sti­tu­tional,” he said in a state­ment.

Voter ID re­quire­ments are part of an in­creas­ingly heated de­bate be­tween the two ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties, and more than a dozen states have passed stricter laws since 2011.

Repub­li­cans say bal­lot in­tegrity could be com­pro­mised with­out IDs, but Democrats say bal­lot ac­cess is a more press­ing is­sue.

The U.S. Supreme Court last grap­pled with the is­sue in 2008, in Craw­ford v. Mar­ion County Elec­tion Board. The jus­tices up­held In­di­ana’s voter ID re­quire­ment in a 6-3 de­ci­sion.

Half of the ma­jor­ity, how­ever, said states should be left to weigh bur­dens ver­sus ben­e­fits, and the other half, led by Jus­tice John Paul Stevens, said there was no ev­i­dence that any­one would be un­duly bur­dened or de­nied the right to vote by In­di­ana’s ID re­quire­ment.

Judge Adel­man said the Wis­con­sin case is dif­fer­ent be­cause in In­di­ana, the chal­lengers didn’t show any con­clu­sive ev­i­dence that people would be de­nied a chance to vote. In Wis­con­sin, he said, there was com­pelling ev­i­dence that hun­dreds of thou­sands of people — more than enough to sway an elec­tion — would be de­nied a vote.

Rick Esen­berg, founder of the Wis­con­sin In­sti­tute for Law & Lib­erty, which filed briefs in the case de­fend­ing Wis­con­sin’s law, said Judge Adel­man’s de­ci­sion ap­pears to go against what the Supreme Court held.

“It is a fairly ag­gres­sive de­ci­sion which sug­gests that per­haps any type of photo iden­ti­fi­ca­tion re­quire­ment would vi­o­late Sec­tion 2 of the Voting Rights Act and pos­si­bly the Con­sti­tu­tion,” Mr. Esen­berg said. “In that sense, it is at least in ten­sion with the Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion in the Craw­ford Case out of In­di­ana.”

One key dif­fer­ence is that In­di­ana’s law al­lowed those who lacked photo IDs to cast pro­vi­sional bal­lots, which would be counted if the voter proved iden­tity. Wis­con­sin’s law lacked that safety valve, Mr. Esen­berg said.

Ed­ward Fal­lone, a law pro­fes­sor at Mar­quette Univer­sity, said the le­gal chal­lenges have be­come more so­phis­ti­cated in the six years since the Craw­ford case.

“I think this case in Wis­con­sin is sort of on the cut­ting edge of ap­ply­ing the fac­tual ev­i­dence and demon­strat­ing, in Adel­man’s rul­ing any­way, that there is not ev­i­dence of voter fraud, but there is ev­i­dence of spe­cific in­di­vid­u­als who are pre­vented from voting by the law,” he said. “There­fore, the bur­den on the right to vote out­weighs any state in­ter­est here.”

The Milwaukee Jour­nal Sen­tinel re­ported that Mr. Walker was re­view­ing the de­ci­sion but had pledged to call a spe­cial ses­sion of the state Leg­is­la­ture if the law was struck down.

Judge Adel­man said that if the Leg­is­la­ture rewrites the law to try to com­ply with his de­ci­sion, he will ex­pe­dite the case. But he sig­naled that he is un­likely to ac­cept any photo ID re­quire­ment.

“Given the ev­i­dence pre­sented at trial show­ing that Blacks and Lati­nos are more likely than whites to lack an ID, it is dif­fi­cult to see how an amend­ment to the photo ID re­quire­ment could re­move its dis­pro­por­tion­ate racial im­pact and dis­crim­i­na­tory re­sult,” the judge wrote.

Judge Adel­man was a Demo­cratic state se­na­tor in Wis­con­sin, and was ap­pointed to the federal court by Pres­i­dent Clin­ton in 1997.


A federal judge de­clared that the voter ID leg­is­la­tion signed by Gov. Scott Walker, a Repub­li­can, vi­o­lated the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which pro­hibits elec­tion laws that dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fect mi­nori­ties. Wis­con­sin has vowed to ap­peal the rul­ing.

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