Striking Down Wisconsin Voter ID Law, Judge Finds ‘No Rational Person Could Be Worried’ About Voter Fraud

CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

A federal judge invalidated Wisconsin’s photo ID requirement Tuesday, in at least the third court ruling to strike down the law.

The ruling is an overwhelming win for plaintiffs, who argued that the voter ID law suppresses ballot access in the state. And while the decision could be overturned on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the law has also already been blocked by two state court decisions, one of which is still in effect. In March, Gov. Scott Walker (R) threatened to go so far as calling a special session to pass a modified law so that some ID provision is in place during the November election.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman found not just that the law disproportionately deters minorities and low-income individuals from voting; but also that purported instances of voter impersonation are so infrequent, if they exist at all, that “no rational person could be worried about it.”

He points out that Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) lawyers could not identify a single instance of known voter impersonation in Wisconsin’s recent past, even though that is the primary justification for the requirement that voters show photo identification. He also found that 9 percent of registered voters lack the sort of qualifying ID required under state law — enough to change the outcome of the election, particularly because many of those same individuals who lack an ID also lack the birth certificate necessary to obtain an ID.

“[T]he photo ID requirement results in the denial or abridgment of the right to vote on account of race or color” in violation of the Voting Rights Act, Adelman concluded. While Adelman’s ruling focuses on the Voting Rights Act, a state ruling also found that a voter ID law would overrule 132 years of Wisconsin precedent.

Wisconsin is the second state in two weeks to have its photo ID law invalidated. Last week, a judge struck down Arkansas’ law. And witch hunts in a number of states that continue to seek out instances of voter fraud have only reinforced the notion that it is less common than being struck by lightning.