Striking down what he called “the single most restrictive voter eligibility law in the country,” Dane County Circuit Court Judge David Flanagan put a temporary injunction on Wisconsin’s voter ID Law on Tuesday. A trial to determine whether or not the injunction will become permanent is set for April 16th. The temporary injunction means that the restrictive law will not be in effect for the April 3rd primary and elections.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the plaintiff’s (NAACP Milwaukee and Voces de la Frontera) key expert, professor Kenneth Mayer of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, concluded that there are more than 220,000 constitutionally qualified voters in Wisconsin who don’t have the type of ID required under Act 23, the voter ID act. Also included in the case were affidavits from 40 residents describing the costs and difficulties they encountered while trying to obtain a photo ID that would allow them to vote.
The IDs, which where to be freely distributed via the Wisconsin DMV, were being kept secret by partisan employees and were withheld for questionable reasons. The malintent was obvious and some have gone as far as to call Voter ID a modern version of a Jim Crow law. Flanagan also pointed out that there were unnecessary financial barriers to obtain the ID’s:
Flanagan said the state’s new voter ID law required people who lacked government photo ID to spend money to acquire the necessary documents — such as birth certificates. He called that “a real cost that is imposed on constitutionally eligible voters,” adding that was especially “burdensome” for the elderly and disabled.
He said the ID requirement fell disproportionately on elderly people, people of color and poor people, and said claims that the voting process needed to be policed to prevent voter impersonation — or fraudulent voting — were overblown and “extremely unlikely.”
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is likely to appeal the decision.
From inception to passing, the law gained full support from Governor Scott Walker and the state’s Republican leadership. Now, the future of Wisconsin Voter ID seems to be hanging in the balance. With a recall election upcoming, this injunction strips the Governor of a definite advantage in terms of obstructing his detractors from voting.
Republicans immediately began to degrade the decision by writing it off as the work of an “activist Dane County Judge.” Democrats, on the other hand, applauded decision but were quick to mention that the battle was not over.
Mayor Tom Barrett said, “As Judge Flanagan states in his opinion: ‘The right to vote is a fundamental, defining element of our society. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has described it as a “sacred right.’ ”
U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore said, “This law does nothing but attempt to return us to an era of Jim Crow politics. Requiring strict photo ID at the polls is nothing more than a modern-day poll tax.”
Moore added, “Our right to vote is one of the most protected rights of any that we enjoy in our democratic system. In fact, the Constitution was amended five times over our nation’s history to reflect this American ideal.”
Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces, said: “Justice has been served, but justice doesn’t come easy, and we’re here to defend and ensure voting rights to all voters.”
She and others involved in the case said, however, that although they prevailed, the court battle is not over.
For the past year, Wisconsin has become a bellwether for the future of American politics. Torn at the seams and struggling to hang on, we see the outcomes that much of the nation is hoping for unfolding before Wisconsinites’ eyes. The Tea Party agenda of Voter Suppression is unpopular, unfair and, most of all, un-American. As Wisconsin progressives fight big money interests, voters the nation over hope their victories will inspire other communities to follow suit.