Tuesday's 90-page decision by Federal Judge Lynn Adelman in Milwaukee on Wisconsin's 2011 photo voter ID law, Act 23 – the most extreme and restrictive voting legislation in the nation at the time – was not a total surprise. But not only did it strike down Act 23 for violating Section Two of the Federal Voting Rights Act and not providing equal protection to all Wisconsin voters under the law, but it also exposed and demolished the long-perpetuated myth that such a measure is needed in order to prevent "voter fraud."
In the decision, Adelman wrote:
In the present case, no evidence suggests that voter-impersonation fraud will become a problem at any time in the foreseeable future. As the plaintiffs’ unrebutted evidence shows, a person would have to be insane to commit voter-impersonation fraud. The potential costs of perpetrating the fraud, which include a $10,000 fine and three years of imprisonment, are extremely high in comparison to the potential benefits, which would be nothing more than one additional vote for a preferred candidate (or one fewer vote for an opposing candidate), a vote which is unlikely to change the election's outcome.
This is significant. For years, this has been the "rationale" by proponents of this legislation and for years they have been utterly unable to produce any evidence of extensive – or even measurable voter "fraud." They have simply invented the "possibility" that such "fraud" might exist. Obviously, this is not a rational basis on which to enact a law that affects the most basic act of citizenship – voting – in a representative democracy.
For news accounts of the decision go here and here. Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) is cited here.
CC/WI opposed this measure in 2011 and opposes it today. It is as fraudulent as the "fraud" it seeks to prevent.
In 2012, we submitted an amicus brief in opposition to Act 23. That brief, and the case was written and argued in magnificent fashion by the legal team of John Ulin of Los Angeles and Chuck Curtis of Madison – both from the Washington, D.C. - based law firm of Arnold & Porter, together with Dean Strang of the Madison law firm of Hurley, Burish & Stanton. Ulin's statement about the case is contained in this release.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has already announced his intention to waste more of Wisconsin's taxpayer dollars by appealing Judge Adelman's decision. The case will likely then be reviewed by the Federal Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago. There is good reason to believe that the 7th Circuit could uphold Adelman's decision. Wisconsin's current voter photo ID law is dead unless the 7th Circuit reverses today's decision. Another case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court would be moot if the 7th Circuit upholds today's monumental ruling. We like our chances.
Of course, the matter will not end there. Governor Scott Walker has already announced his intention to call the Wisconsin Legislature back into Special Session late this Spring or Summer for the sole purpose of passing and enacting into law a revised voter photo ID law for the purpose of bolstering his own re-election prospects and those of his Republican allies in the Legislature.
They will say it is to "prevent voter fraud" but anyone who truly believes that is also likely to invest their life savings in Beta Video Recorders and Eight-Track Tape players. Not a wise bet.
Office: Common Cause Wisconsin
Issues: Voting and Elections
Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.