Oral Argument for Voter ID Cases in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Supreme court held oral argument for the Voter ID cases last week. The two cases, League of Women Voters v. Scott Walker and Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP v. Scott Walker challenge the constitutionality of the laws in Wisconsin requireing that one present a photo identification at the ballot.

Tidbits covered the background of the cases here. As explained:

“In LWV, the circuit court declared the photo ID requirements of Act 23 ‘unconstitutional to the extent they serve as a condition for voting at the polls.’ The circuit court ruled that the photo identification requirement provisions of Act 23 were facially invalid under Art. III.

The Court of Appeals’ reversed, providing analysis of three cited cases and concluding that the League of Women Voters failed to meet its burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the voter ID is unconstitutional under Art. III, § 2.

The League of Women Voters says in so holding, the Court of Appeals gave short shrift to its analysis of the scope and meaning of Art. III, § 2.”

The NAACP case commenced on Dec. 16, 2011, when the plaintiffs filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. On July 17, 2012, the Dane County circuit court issued an order for judgment and judgment granting declaratory and injunctive relief. Among its 10 conclusions of law, the circuit court found the photo ID requirement creates a substantial burden for potential voters who do not already have photo IDs and impairs the constitutional right to vote.

The permanent injunction issued by the circuit court in NAACP is broader and declared that ‘the defendants shall cease immediately and permanently all and any effort to enforce or implement the photo identification requirements of 2011 Wisconsin Act 23.’ “

The proceedings lasted 3 hours on February 25.  A Wisconsin Justice Department attorney, Clayton Kawski, represented Governor Scott Walker while attorney Lester Pines represented the League of Women Voters, and Richard Saks for the Milwaukee NAACP.

As the Star Tribune reported, Kawski said the law was reasonable as over 90% of Wisconsin residents already have IDs that would comply with the law, in addition to the idea that this would prevent voter fraud.

The thrust of the NAACP and League of Women Voters’ argument was that the law creates an economic barrier to being able to vote as people often have to purchase an ID or documentation to get an ID. This, they argued, is unconstitutional as lawmakers have placed a qualification in place beyond the age and residency requirements of the constitution.

Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Roggensack sympathized with this argument, with the Chief Justice saying that she is, “…troubled by the idea of paying the state to vote.” Justice Gablemen, however, pushed the attorneys for the NAACP and League of Women Voters to admit that without an economic barrier, the law would be constitutional.

Justice Prosser made a statement about his experience needing to retrieve documentation from Appleton to get his high-security federal ID. He said it was “inconvenient to do that.” It likely indicates his stance, contrary to the others among the conservative majority in the high court.

More details can be found through WisEye, which recorded the oral arguments.

Video of the League of Wisconsin Voters v. Scott Walker Oral Arument

Video fothe Milwaukee NAACP v. Scott Walker Oral Argument

It is expected that the case will receive a ruling by the end of June, though the cases heard in the Federal Courts in Milwaukee will also be telling of the law’s federal constitutionality and could alter the course of these laws.

This post was authored by Jake Heyka, an intern at the Hamilton Consulting Group.