Judges strike down voter ID laws in Texas, Wisconsin
In a blow to the integrity of the vote, the Supreme Court reinstated an injunction against the voter ID law in Wisconsin. And in Texas, a federal judge struck down the Texas voter ID law, calling it a "poll tax."
Both states will not be able to require valid photo ID in order to vote in next month's elections.
The Wisconsin case was partially decided as a result of a worry, even by conservative justices, that the state would be unable to educate voters, train poll workers, and issue photo ID's in time for the upcoming election.
The Wisconsin requirement, one of the strictest in the nation, is part of a state law enacted in 2011 but mostly blocked by various courts in the interim. A federal trial judge had blocked it, saying it would “deter or prevent a substantial number of the 300,000-plus registered voters who lack ID from voting” and would disproportionately affect black and Hispanic voters.
The law was provisionally reinstated last month by a unanimous three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Chicago hours after it heard arguments. The full court was deadlocked, five to five, on a request for a new hearing.
“It is simply impossible, as a matter of common sense and of logistics, that hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin voters will both learn about the need for photo identification and obtain the requisite identification in the next 36 days,” the appeals court judges opposed to the requirement wrote.
The three-judge panel upheld the law on Monday, reasoning that it was similar to one from Indiana that the Supreme Court upheld in 2008.
The challengers to the Wisconsin law asked the Supreme Court to block the voter identification requirement for now, saying it would “virtually guarantee chaos at the polls.” Whatever the legality, they said, the state cannot issue enough IDs and train enough poll workers before the November election.
The law requires absentee voters to submit identification. But forms sent before the appeals court acted did not include that requirement. State officials had said they would not count ballots returned without copies of valid ID.
The officials argued that voters knew of the appeals court’s ruling and that blocking it would cause confusion. “Voters would get the pinball treatment,” they wrote. They told the justices that opponents “legitimately raise issues regarding absentee ballots,” but that local election officials were trying to inform voters that they might have to take more steps for their votes to be counted.
In dissent, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, said the timing of the state’s request made it difficult. “It is particularly troubling that absentee ballots have been sent out without any notation that proof of photo identification must be submitted,” he wrote.
In effect, opponents of voter ID laws ran out the clock, making it impossible for the state to implement the law in the time left before the election. But since the Wisconsin law is very similar to an Indiana voter ID law already approved by the Supreme Court, it is expected to pass muster when the court revisits the issue after the election.
The Texas case is very different. Here. a federal judge accepted the bogus numbers of "disenfranchised" voters being thrown around by anti-voter ID advocates.
Thursday’s ruling from Texas, issued after a two-week trial in Corpus Christi, found that the state’s voter ID law “creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose,” Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos wrote.
A spokeswoman for the Texas attorney general’s office said it would immediately appeal “to avoid voter confusion in the upcoming election.”
Ryan P. Haygood, a lawyer at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, welcomed the decision. “The evidence in this case,” he said, “demonstrated that the law, like its poll-tax ancestor, imposes real costs and unjustified, disparate burdens on the voting rights of more than 600,000 registered Texas voters, a substantial percentage of whom are voters of color.”
The federal judge who reinstated the Wisconsin law on Monday, only to see the Supreme Court flip his decision, had this to say about the numbers of voters who would be affected by the valid ID requirement:
"The district judge who tried the Indiana case rejected a large estimate as fanciful in a world in which photo ID is essential to board an airplane, enter Canada or any other foreign nation, drive a car (even people who do not own cars need licenses to drive friends' or relatives' cars), buy a beer, purchase pseudoephedrine for a stuffy nose or pick up a prescription at a pharmacy, open a bank account or cash a check at a currency exchange, buy a gun, or enter a courthouse to serve as a juror or watch the argument of this appeal," Easterbrook wrote. "Could 9% of Wisconsin's voting population really do none of these things?"
Reason and logic just won't do in this situation; what's needed is fear and fakery. They are pulling those numbers out of a hat and judges who fall for the fraudulent numbers are engaging in wishful thinking.
Texas will have to go back to the drawing board and write a new law in order to get it past the lower courts.