Federal court deadlocks on voter photo ID law

By Bill Kaplan

"Wisconsin is a case study of a Republican governor who took over a nominally blue state and turned it into a cauldron of anger and resentment.... he (Scott Walker) is now in a very competitive race against Democrat Mary Burke, with both his governorship and his 2016 presidential aspirations at risk." Washington Post, September 28, 2014 

Most pundits rate the gubernatorial election as a toss-up. Walker's signature issue of creating 250,000 private sector jobs has failed, with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel PolitiFact saying "promise broken" (only 40 percent realized). Moreover, most voters disagree with Walker and want to raise the state minimum wage and accept 100 percent federal funding to expand Medicaid. Then there is the John Doe investigation looking into attempts to circumvent state campaign fundraising laws by Walker's political operatives and corporate / far-right supporters. 

Now Walker is implementing a "controversial" voter photo ID law a few weeks before the election, "making voting harder for a substantial number of Wisconsinites - disproportionately those who are minority and poorer, and who tend to vote Democratic" (New York Times). The estimated 300,000 who lack the required IDs include many young and elderly voters. Moreover, Milwaukee federal Judge Lynn Adelman ruled that there is: "Virtually no voter impersonation...." and found the law discriminatory / unconstitutional and stayed its implementation. But a three member judicial panel (all GOP appointed) from the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals quickly reinstated the law. 

However, that ruling was appealed to the full 7th Circuit Court. And, in a remarkable decision the court deadlocked on reconsidering the case. Five judges (two appointed by GOP presidents and three by Democratic presidents) wanted to hold a hearing. Five other judges (all GOP appointed) declined to hear the case. But it was noteworthy that former Chief Judge Richard Posner (GOP appointed) voted for a hearing, notwithstanding his previous support for voter photo ID laws. 

Wisconsin now has joined the South with the strictest voter photo ID laws. Retiring GOP state Senator Dale Schultz said: "we are not encouraging voting, we are not making voting easier in any way, shape or form with these bills (voter ID). Back in 1957 with the leadership of Dwight Eisenhower, Republicans were doing that." What to do? 

Fight back! The Milwaukee County Board voted unanimously to provide free bus service to the Division of Motor Vehicles for voters to get free required state-issued photo IDs. Others are also stepping up to help voters. United Wisconsin has launched a superb website "Got ID, Wisconsin?" (http://www.unitedwivote.com) that gives great tips. Similarly, the University of Wisconsin-Madison along with Associated Students of Madison (http://www.vote.wisc.edu) offers election information and how to get free voter photo IDs from the Wiscard office in Union South. Other groups offering assistance include the League of Women Votes Wisconsin (http://www.lwvwi.org/VotingElections.aspx), the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin (http://www.aclu-wi.org/story/answers-some- voter-id-questions) and Citizen Action of Wisconsin (http://www.citizenactionwi.org/voting). 

We are Wisconsin. Don't just get angry, help others to get the required voter photo IDs. We must do this! 

-- Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 - 2009.

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