In Wisconsin, the first test of the Voting Rights Act post-Shelby County v. Holder is underway. Since the controversial ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in June — in which the court ruled that the federal preclearance formula used to prevent racist voter suppression in certain states and communities is dated and unconstitutional — nine states have moved to introduce stricter voting laws — including harsher requirements for voter identification, restrictions on absentee and early voting and limiting access to voting places. Wisconsin is the first state the Justice Department has sued under Section 2 of the VRA, which prohibits states from limiting voting access to federally recognized protected groups and permits the Justice Department to file suit on the basis of racial, ethnic, age, gender, sexual preference or disability discrimination at the polling place. Wisconsin passed a law requiring a state-issued photo ID be presented in order to vote. This, in turn, would require a birth certificate, which many minorities do not have access to. Additionally, out-of-state college students might not have access to a state ID. … In one of the two challenges being heard, the American Civil Liberties Union argues that Ruthelle Frank, an 86-year-old resident of Brokaw, Wis., and a member of the Brokaw Village Board since 1996, is being unfairly discriminated against because — although the state Register of Deeds bears a record of her live birth — the record has her maiden name incorrectly spelled. As a result, all of her vital certifications would be inadequate under the law toward obtaining a voting ID, while correcting the error would be costly for an elderly woman on a fixed budget. The ACLU argues that the Wisconsin law places Frank under an undue financial burden in order to exercise her right to vote.
The amended ACLU complaint also list Eddie Lee Holloway, Jr. as a co-plaintiff. Holloway’s birth certificate lists Holloway’s name as “Eddie Junior Holloway” — a clerical error reflecting the way names were listed when Holloway was born. Despite the fact that the birth certificate lists Holloway’s father as “Eddie Lee Holloway” or that both Holloway’s Social Security Card and expired Illinois photo ID bear Holloway’s name as “Eddie L Holloway Jr..” the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles refused to issue a new photo ID to Holloway due to the birth certificate error. Disabled, unemployed and homeless, Holloway cannot afford to have his birth certificate amended — and as such, is not only denied the right to vote, but access to disability benefits and medical attention he desperately needs.
In the second challenge — brought by the Advancement Project and argued by Arnold & Porter, LLC — the Wisconsin law is alleged to be intentionally creating an unfair burden of proof on voters of color, which effectively excludes hundreds of thousands of Black and Latino voters. The argument that such laws are needed to fight voting fraud is a false argument, alleges the challenge, as Wisconsin has virtually no voter fraud.
In the last 13 years, Wisconsin has had 57 substantive allegations of voter fraud, per News21, which conducted a thorough auditing of voting violations accusations. Not counting incidents in which individuals that held a felony conviction voted, there have been only four convicted cases of voter fraud in the state. This represents a microscopic number compared with the successful votes cast.
“The politicians who passed this law are not trying to stop voter fraud; they are trying to restrict voting,”said Advancement Project Co-Director Penda Hair. “As the world’s leading democracy, our elected officials should be working to keep our voting system free, fair and accessible to all Americans.”