Courts Ding Wisconsin, Texas Voter-ID Laws

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:

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, “9 Percent of the Wisconsin Electorate Just Got Their Right to Vote Back,” The Nation, 2016.07.19].

Down South, a federal court has ruled that Texas’s voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against minority voters:

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:

  1. A South Dakota driver’s license or nondriver identification card;
  2. A passport or an identification card, including a picture, issued by an agency of the United States government;
  3. A tribal identification card, including a picture; or
  4. 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.

6 Responses to Courts Ding Wisconsin, Texas Voter-ID Laws

  1. mike from iowa

    It seems the 5th circuit court has changed the way it rules lately-from being an almost guaranteed rubber stamp for lousy wingnut laws in Texas to having a more nuanced view of the rule of law. Maybe Scalia smothering himself will have a positive impact on the most conservative appeals court in the world.

  2. Don Coyote

    Before you know it luggage tags will suffice.

  3. Don: that’s about the way it should be since the statistical significance of voter fraud is almost nil. But the anti-science & math repubs are loath to recognize fact from fear and emotion of that of teenage girls, but I didn’t intend to insult teenage girls.

  4. barry freed

    Without voting machines that create a paper trail, it doesn’t matter.

    Pennington County’s Auditor and half time resident said from Arizona there were issues with the ESS machines during the Wheel Tax vote, but the extent of problems couldn’t be determined without a paper trail. The software inside the machines could shed light, but it is ESS owned and not available for inspection.

    No fix or solution is expected

  5. Barry, I won’t let accusations that elections are rigged and meaningless stop me from cheering the defeat of voter suppression measures. If you can show me a reliable policy to restore your faith—ban electronic machines, require paper receipts of every vote, open-source voting machine software—I’ll be happy to sponsor it in the Senate.

  6. barry freed

    Exit polls in other countries that differ by more than 2% are considered crooked according the the State Dept. A news source reported that U.S. primaries this year are running at as much as a 12% difference.