Voter ID Upheld by State Supreme Court
A voting booth in the Village of Plover Municipal Building. (City-Times photo)
By Patrick Lynn
The State Supreme Court this morning ruled the Wisconsin voter ID law is legal and in keeping with the state constitution.
The law, which required a photo ID be presented prior to voting, was challenged by the Wisconsin League of Women Voters and Milwaukee branch of the NAACP. The groups argued the requirement was an undue burden on those who did not have photo identification, such as the poor and those who did not drive, and was therefore unconstitutional. Currently, people have to produce certified copies of their birth certificates at a cost of $20 to get an ID card if they don’t have another acceptable form of photo ID.
“The modest fees for documents necessary to prove identity would be a severe burden on the constitutional right to vote not because they would be difficult for some to pay,” Justice Patience Roggensack wrote for the majority. “Rather, they would be a severe burden because the State of Wisconsin may not enact a law that requires any elector, rich or poor, to pay a fee of any amount to a government agency as a precondition to the elector’s exercising his or her constitutional right to vote. As the Supreme Court has explained, it is best to ‘limit the solution to the problem’ rather than enjoining the application of an entire statute due to a limited flaw.”
Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote the dissenting opinion:
“Today the court follows not James Madison – for whom Wisconsin’s capital city is named – but rather Jim Crow – the name typically used to refer to repressive laws used to restrict rights, including the right to vote, of African-Americans.”
The decision could mean additional lawsuits over voter ID because of a federal decision which prohibits the state from forcing residents to pay a fee for state-issued ID cards.
In his opinion Roggensack said “a saving construction” could be used in interpreting the state’s administrative code in such a way that forces the Division of Motor Vehicles to issue photo ID without requiring documents which require fees to obtain, such as a birth certificate.
The voter ID ruling is not expected to take effect in time for the November election.
Gov. Scott Walker said the ruling was a win honest elections.
“Voter ID is a common sense reform that protects the integrity of our elections. People need to have confidence in our electoral process and to know their vote has been properly counted,” Walker said in a statement released Thursday. “We look forward to the same result from the federal court of appeals.”
In a statement from the League of Women Voters, the decision was a return to voting inequality.
“We are disappointed that a majority of Wisconsin Supreme Court justices did not agree with the League of Women Voters or the growing numbers of federal judges who have recently found that strict voter ID laws are more likely to prevent thousands of qualified citizens from voting than to deter the extremely small number of potential illegal votes,” the statement read.
Gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke has yet to release a statement, but has said she is against voter ID, saying there’s no evidence voter fraud is a problem.