Voter rights advocates won a big victory in Wisconsin last week when, in a ruling in the case of Frank v. Walker, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman tossed out the state's strict photo voter ID law. His rationale was that it would cause unreasonable hassles on people of color and low-income citizens. It would also cost them money for documents, travel to the DMV and time off work. Adelman wrote:
"Given the obstacles identified above, it is likely that a substantial number of the 300,000 plus voters who lack a qualifying ID will be deterred from voting. Although not every voter will face all of these obstacles, many voters will face some of them, particularly those who are low income. [...]He also wrote that "it is absolutely clear that Act 23 will prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes."
[T]he evidence adduced at trial leads to the conclusion that, in Wisconsin, Blacks and Latinos are less likely than whites to possess a qualifying form of photo identification.”
Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has made keeping the voter ID law alive a major priority, and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen made it known almost immediately that the state will appeal.
Latino Decisions, an organization focused on Latino opinion research, pointed out that research it conducted was "critical" to the ruling:
Professors Matt Barreto (UW) and Gabriel Sanchez (UNM) from Latino Decisions conducted research that proved to be pivotal in the case. The report generated by Barreto and Sanchez, on behalf of the ACLU of Wisconsin, was based on a survey conducted to gauge how many eligible voters in Milwaukee County, WI lack the identification required to vote under the new law, and was introduced as an expert report by the plaintiffs and cited extensively in the judge’s opinion.(See earlier coverage here.)
Please continue reading below the fold for additional briefs about the war on voting.
Alabama is one of many states that have recently passed laws requiring voters to present a photo ID before being allowed to cast a ballot. But the Alabama law requires that the state give a free ID to anyone who doesn't have one:
According to the Alabama Secretary of State's Office, 1,307 people have been issued the Voter ID cards. That figure doesn't include the number of people who have received new driver's licenses or non-driver ID cards from the Alabama Department of Public Safety.• Ohio ACLU sues state over voting law changes: The organization—on behalf of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, several churches with mostly black congregations and others—seeks to dump a change in the law that eliminated "golden week," a period when voters could cast ballots and register in the same day.
"I think that we've covered a lot of the bases that maybe some states have not that were in this before we are and we've learned from their mistakes," Secretary of State Jim Bennett said.
They also want to undo a directive from Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted setting uniform early voting days and hours and eliminating polling on Sundays and evenings in advance of the November general election.• Daniel Stid with praise for Pew's Elections Performance Index:
"We are here today to stand up for the rights of all Ohio voters, regardless of their political party, regardless of their income, age or race," said Freda Levenson, managing attorney of the ACLU of Ohio.
State and local governments are free in many domains to tackle common problems differently, as they might see fit. Superior approaches developed in one state or locality can thus be adopted in places where performance is subpar. If not, the onus is on the underperforming policy-makers and administrators to explain themselves to their underserved citizens.• M. Mindy Moretti discusses how cities and counties are boosting voter registration. In Wilson County, Tennessee, the county elections commission works with realtors and title companies to ensure that new homeowners get registration forms. In Madison, Wisconsin, city council members fought with local landlords over a 2012 ordinance to get them to supply registration forms to new tenants. An attempt to get the state legislature to overturn the ordinance failed. East Lansing, Michigan, passed a similar ordinance in 2013.
That onus just got much heavier for state elections officials that are lagging their peers. Last month the Pew Charitable Trusts launched a revamped Elections Performance Index that, on 17 concrete performance measures, identifies states in which election administration is going relatively well, states where it is not, and the trend lines in recent elections. This data will make it harder for officials to preside over abysmal performance; at the same time, it will make it easier for officials who want to improve to identify where and how they can do so.
This idea originated with Yale Law School Professor Heather Gerken, who in 2009 wrote a book proposing just such a “Democracy Index.”
• Complying with all the rules for getting on the ballot in Pennsylvania can be tough for rookies. And that seems to be just the way the party establishments want it to be, according to Joel Mathis at Philly Mag.
Voter ID laws have their greatest effect on minorities, poor people, elderly voters and students—who all tend to vote in greater numbers for Democratic candidates. This is why Republicans generally support, and Democrats generally oppose, strict voter ID laws. Unless passed with bipartisan support, there is an inherent partisan tinge to any voter ID debate. But we should not sanction election laws promulgated for partisan reasons.