Wisconsin’s voter ID law was on, then off, and now back on again—for now. A similar Texas law was blocked by a federal court before going into force last year, and could now be nixed once more. North Carolina’s sweeping and restrictive voting law looks likely to be in effect this November, but there’s no guarantee. Ohio’s cuts to early voting were put on hold recently, but that decision too could be reversed. And no one seems to know what’s going to happen with Arkansas’ ID law. In a slew of states with crucial races this fall, access to the polls is in the hands of the courts. That reality underlines how last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that weakened the Voting Rights Act has transformed the legal landscape on the issue — but also how the conservative push to restrict voting is now a national, not a regional, campaign. It’s a situation that is likely to cause confusion for voters no matter the legal outcomes. And looming at the end of the road is the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice John Roberts, no friend of voting rights, which could upend everything if it decides to clear things up by weighing in. “That is the big question right now,” said Myrna Perez, a top voting rights lawyer with the Brennan Center for Justice, who has been arguing the Texas case. “Is this going to get before the court before the 2014 election? It’s certainly something that folks are pondering.”
In 2008, the Supreme Court justices upheld Indiana’s ID law, in Crawford v. Marion. But that measure was far more lenient than those passed by Wisconsin, Texas and North Carolina. And the plaintiffs’ lawyers in that case did little to show that real voters would be disenfranchised by it —a reality that’s at the heart of the more recent challenges.
If the Supreme Court does weigh in, it might be bad news for voting rights supporters: Roberts has made clear that rolling back civil rights law that he sees as too far-reaching is his top priority on the court. A ruling decisively affirming voter ID laws could make it next to impossible to use the VRA to tackle all but the most blatant examples of race bias in voting.
But that’s all down the road. This week, voting-rights groups challenging the Wisconsin ID measure filed court documents asking that the full 7th Circuit Court of Appeals take a second look at a ruling last Friday by a three-judge panel. In that decision, the three Republican-appointed judges overturned an injunction blocking the law that was issued in April by a district court judge, who found that it violated the Voting Rights Act’s ban on racial discrimination. Unless the full appeals court agrees to rehear the case and then restores the injunction, or the Supreme Court gets involved, voters will have to show photo ID at the polls this fall, when Gov. Scott Walker, a staunch supporter of the law, faces a tough fight for re-election.
Full Article: Access to polls is in the hands of the courts | MSNBC.