Court's Decision to Reinstate Wis. Voter ID Will Have Major Impact on Election
In April of this year, a federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s voter ID law, claiming that the measure placed an unfair burden on older and low-income citizens, particularly minorities.
Yesterday, less than two months before the midterm election and with the governor election in a dead heat, a federal appeals court ruled to reinstate the law requiring voters to show photo identification when casting ballots.
The Wisconsin Legislature passed the voter ID law in 2011, but it had never gone into effect for a general election. Although it was used in a primary that had a very low turnout in February 2012, a state court blocked the law as a violation of the Wisconsin Constitution before the general election.
The decision to overturn this ruling and allow the state to move forward with the law came from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
Proponents of the law claim that requiring voter ID will cut down on voter fraud; however, the ruling in April found fraud nearly nonexistent. Instead, Judge Adelman found that the law would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters, roughly 9 percent of registered voters.The decision, if it had been in effect for the 2010 governor’s race, could have changed the outcome where Scott Walker won by a mere 124,638 votes. Now, Walker is in another fierce gubernatorial election battle.
According to 4 different polls on Real Clear Politics, Walker leads in two polls, while Burke leads in the other two. All the polls see the winner emerging with only a tiny margin. At least one political expert on the matter reports that most of the people who will need to get an ID in the coming few weeks are more likely to vote Democratic.
The law’s implementation could literally change the outcome of this election.
Logistically, the state is also facing a nightmare to change procedures so close to Election Day.
First, the state has to get photo ID's to almost 300,000 people who might now be disenfranchised without them.
Governor Walker approved new rules on Friday to allow a free process to verify birth information and make it easier to get an ID without a birth certificate. However, of the 92 Departments of Motor Vehicle Services in the state, only two are open after 5 p.m. and only one is open on the weekends.
For those who lack cars or flexible work schedules, the limited window they have to obtain a valid photo ID is a challenge.
Perhaps the bigger issue is the fact that more than 11,800 absentee ballots have already been requested and sent out. Some of them have even been returned, without the voter showing ID. All further absentee ballots are being delayed from being sent out.
This measure, however, has its own set of problems since federal election law requires that all absentee ballots be sent out by Thursday. The state has not decided how to deal with any of these ballots
As NAACP attorney Dale Ho said, “No court has ever allowed voter ID to go into effect this close to an election, even courts that have ultimately upheld .”
Although 34 states have some law that requires a form of identification at the polls, Wisconsin’s new law is one of the strictest in the country.
This most recent voter ID law is not only changing the way the election is being run, but it might even change the outcome.
Photo Source: Reuters
About the Author
Debbie Sharnak is a PhD candidate in history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a focus on Latin America and international relations. Her work examines the origins and evolution of human rights. She was a 2014 Fulbright Scholar in Uruguay.