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Home / Commentary / View from around the state: Judge gets it right, strikes down voter ID law

View from around the state: Judge gets it right, strikes down voter ID law

— From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin’s voter ID law suffered another welcome blow Tuesday when a federal judge struck it down, ruling that it violated the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution. The law, ruled Judge Lynn Adelman, “results in the denial or abridgment of the right of black and Latino citizens to vote on account of race or color.”

As we’ve argued for years, Adelman found that there really isn’t any voter fraud in Wisconsin that a voter photo ID could address — one of the key arguments of supporters of the law.

Instead, a photo ID law places an undue burden on low-income people.

A “substantial number” of the 300,000 eligible voters in the state who lack an ID are low-income, the judge found, concluding that many of them “will be deterred from voting.”

“Detecting and preventing in-person voter-impersonation fraud is a legitimate state interest,” he wrote. “However … because virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin and it is exceedingly unlikely that voter impersonation will become a problem in Wisconsin in the foreseeable future, this particular state interest has very little weight.”

Indeed, Act 23 was never really about voter fraud. It was always about raw politics — an attempt to tamp down the voting constituencies of the Democratic Party by the Republicans who control the governor’s chair in Wisconsin and both houses of the Legislature. The people most affected by the law tend to vote for Democrats.

“But no matter how imprecise my estimate may be, it is absolutely clear that Act 23 will prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes,” he wrote. Adelman issued an injunction barring the law from being enforced.

The law also has been challenged in state court and also has been blocked by a state judge. The state Supreme Court is expected to rule by summer on that decision.

State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said he would appeal Adelman’s decision to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, has said he would call a special legislative session on voter ID this spring or summer if courts ruled against the law.

And they are certainly free to pursue their legal remedies. But a better approach would be to simply drop this charade. Wisconsin should encourage as many legitimate voters as possible to go to the polls. As Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett put it, “I want people who are legally eligible to vote to be able to vote without restrictions.”

Overturning voter ID removes one of those potential restrictions. Lynn Adelman got it right.

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