A Federal District Court has struck a host of WI voting rules, including certain Voter ID provisions, as unconstitutional.
Among other things, the court has ordered that expired but otherwise valid Student ID cards will be valid for voting. This is yet another win for voting rights activists in the past few weeks.
The trial court enjoined the following WI laws:
1. Most of the State-imposed limitations on the time and location for in-person Absentee voting, although the State may set a uniform rule disallowing in-person Absentee voting on the Monday before elections.
2. The requirement that “dorm lists” to be used as proof of residence include citizenship information.
3. The 28-day durational residency requirement.
4. The prohibition on distributing Absentee ballots by fax or email.
5. The bar on using expired but otherwise qualifying student IDs.
This is a pretty sweeping opinion, which rejects many of the State’s arguments for its restrictive voting rules as pretexual, and really aimed at giving Republicans advantage in elections. The Judge was particularly skeptical of measures which made it harder to vote in Milwaukee, with its large population of minority voters, and to a lesser extent, Madison, a liberal stronghold in the State. But this is a careful opinion which parses the evidence and does not accept all of the claims.
What will the 7th Circuit do? The first question is whether this gets consolidated with the other WI Voter ID case, and gets before the Easterbrook panel again. If it does, parts of this ruling could well be reversed. On the other hand, things could be different before a different panel of 7th Circuit Judges, now there is a 5-4 majority on the 7th Cir. en banc that has expressed concerns about overly strict Voter ID laws. So it is uncertain how all this plays out.
Another uncertainty is the timing. Can all of this get resolved before the election. If this drags on on appeal, we may run into Purcell Principle problems for the fall 2016 election. If a ruling is to close to an election, Courts will leave current laws in place and redress changes until after the elections.
CLICK HERE to read the 119 page (PDF) decision.
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker