Voting rights just got two victories this week. Yesterday, a federal Judge Lynn Adelman ruled that Wisconsin must allow voters who don’t have photo IDs to sign an affidavit to receive a ballot and vote:
9 Percent of the Wisconsin Electorate Just Got Their Right to Vote Back,” The Nation, 2016.07.19].Nine percent of registered voters in Wisconsin, 9 percent of the electorate, lacked a government-issued ID when the law was passed. “Although most voters in Wisconsin either possess qualifying ID or can easily obtain one, a safety net is needed for those voters who cannot obtain qualifying ID with reasonable effort,” wrote Judge Lynn Adelman. “Because there are likely thousands of eligible voters in Wisconsin who lack qualifying ID, it is virtually self-evident that some of them will either need to exercise extraordinary effort to obtain qualifying ID or be unable to obtain ID no matter how hard they try” [Ari Berman, “
A federal appeals court has ruled that a Texas voter ID law has a discriminatory effect on minority voters, and has ordered a lower court to devise a remedy before the November elections.
A district court had found not only that the law discriminated, but that it was intentionally designed to do so. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals saw some flaws in that conclusion, and instructed the lower court to reconsider that element of the case and rule again — preferably after Election Day [Camila Domonoske, “U.S. Appeals Court Finds Texas Voter ID Law Discriminates Against Minority Voters,” NPR News: The Two-Way, 2016.07.20].
The 5th Circuit found that the types of ID considered valid for voting under Texas law—”a state driver’s license or ID card, a concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, a military ID card, or a U.S citizenship certificate with a photo“—tend to favor white voters. The court agreed with the plaintiffs that excluding IDs like state employee and university photo IDs is more likely to exclude minority voters.
Neither of these rulings appears to imperil South Dakota’s voter ID requirement. SDCL 12-18-6.1 requires that voters present one of the following forms of identification:
- A South Dakota driver’s license or nondriver identification card;
- A passport or an identification card, including a picture, issued by an agency of the United States government;
- A tribal identification card, including a picture; or
- A current student identification card, including a picture, issued by a high school or an accredited institution of higher education, including a university, college, or technical school, located within the State of South Dakota [SDCL 12-18-6.1].
Our acceptance of tribal photo IDs and student IDs appears to mitigate the concerns about minority-voter access that lost the case for Texas. Plus, SDCL 12-18-6.2 allows us to sign an affidavit instead of presenting a photo ID (and I always do!). We thus comply with the Wisconsin judge’s order for an alternative.
Of course, Libertarian-minded readers might prefer to look at it from the other direction: no one has demonstrated that voter fraud is a sufficiently large (or even existent) problem to justify the state’s restriction of citizens’ right to vote. The Voting Rights Act actually did more to get rid of voter fraud than any of the modern restrictions Republicans have imposed to suppress minority votes. We could get rid of voter ID requirements altogether, see fewer voters discouraged from voting, and incur no significant harm of voter fraud.