Supreme Court to Hear Voter ID Cases

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has announced it will take up and rule upon two cases challenging the constitutionality of the state’s voter ID requirement. Oral argument has been scheduled for Feb. 25, 2014, an opinion should be issued by the end summer when the court’s current term ends.

Though League of Women Voters v. Scott Walker and Milwaukee Branch of the NAAACP v. Scott Walker both challenge the same law, they do so on different grounds. As the court explains:

The LWV case focuses on whether Act 23’s photo identification requirements established a new qualification for voters that, under Wis. Const. Art. III, §§ 1 and 2 can only be created by a constitutional amendment, rather than by ordinary legislation, and NAACP focuses on whether the photo identification requirements impose an unconstitutional burden on voting rights under Wis. Const. Art. III, § 1.

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 League of Women Voters raises the following issues for Supreme Court review:

  • Do the portions of 2011 Wisconsin Act 23 that require constitutionally qualified and registered voters to display a specified form of government-issued photo identification at the polling place as a prerequisite to voting constitute an impermissible additional qualification to vote in violation of Wis. Const. Art. III, § 1?
  • Do the portions of 2011 Wisconsin Act 23 that require constitutionally qualified and registered voters to display a specified form of government-issued photo identification at the polling place as a prerequisite to voting exceed legislative authority under Wis. Const. Art. III, § 2?
  • Did the League and its president, Melanie G. Ramey, have standing to bring this action challenging the facial constitutionality of the Voter ID provisions?

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.”

In NAACP, the state argues in briefs filed on behalf of Walker that the circuit court’s decision in this case is incorrect for six reasons.

  • The court erred as a matter of law by holding that the voter identification requirements are subject to strict scrutiny.
  • The court erred by holding that the right to vote should be treated differently under the Wisconsin Constitution than it is treated under the federal constitution.
  • The court erred by facially invalidating the voter identification requirements as to all voters in spite of the undisputed evidence that those requirements do not burden the vast majority of voters.
  • The Court erred both in accepting the statistical conclusions of Plaintiffs’ expert witness and in finding those statistics sufficient to establish a severe burden on the right to vote.
  • Fifth, the court erred in finding the anecdotal testimony of the individual fact witnesses sufficient to establish a severe burden on the right to vote.
  • The court erroneously failed to recognize that the voter identification requirements are reasonably calculated to advance the state’s compelling interests in preventing electoral fraud and promoting voter confidence in the integrity of elections. From Dane County.

 

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