The Wisconsin state constitution forbids nearly all laws that restrict the franchise. In its words, “[e]very United States citizen age 18 or older who is a resident of an election district in this state is a qualified elector of that district.” This is why two Wisconsin courts struck down that state’s voter ID law, and it is why 132 years of Wisconsin Supreme Court precedent forbid voter suppression laws such as voter ID.
Wisconsin state Rep. Robin Vos (R), who will serve as Speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly next year, thinks such robust protection of the right to vote is a problem — and it’s a problem he’s wants to solve:
VOS: I do think that having photo ID is something that is broadly supported by the public. It’s something that I really hope we have in place by the next general election. If there were some serious issues raised by the Dane County court I’m looking to fix those, but ultimately I want to make sure photo ID is the law of Wisconsin.
QUESTION: Very briefly, would you favor beginning the process of changing the state’s constitution to require photo ID because of some of the legal uncertainty around the law?
VOS: Yes, I would favor that. It also takes two sessions, so that wouldn’t be until 2015 even if we did begin that process. Hopefully we can get a statute passed that will be in effect for the 2014 election or sooner.
For the record, voter ID laws do not simply violate the Wisconsin Constitution, they also violate the U.S. Constitution. As the Supreme Court explained in Burdick v. Takushi, laws that place a high burden on voters in order to address a particularly weak state interest are unconstitutional. Voter ID laws potentially disenfranchise thousands of voters; and though their supporters attempt to justify them by claiming that they are necessary to prevent voter fraud, the truth is that a person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud at the polls. One study of Wisconsin voters determined that just 0.00023 percent of votes are the product of in-person fraud.
Nevertheless, in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board the Roberts Court refused to strike down an unconstitutional voter ID law. If President Obama has an opportunity to replace one of the Court’s conservatives, correcting the error in Crawford should be a top priority.
[HT: Amanda Terkel]