A federal trial in Milwaukee on Wisconsin’s 2011 voter ID law concluded recently, and the verdict, when it comes, will help define the future of the Voting Rights Act, which has been in question since the Supreme Court gutted a core provision, Section 5, in June. This case could also set an important precedent for lawsuits recently filed against similar laws in Texas and North Carolina. The Wisconsin law, which is now on hold, is among the strictest in the country. It requires a voter to show poll workers government-issued photo identification, like a driver’s license or passport. The law’s challengers, which include the A.C.L.U., the League of United Latin American Citizens, the League of Young Voters and several private citizens, sued under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. That section, which survived the Supreme Court’s ruling, prohibits state and local governments from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting” that has a racially discriminatory effect. The test is whether a law causes minority voters to have “less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process.” The plaintiffs presented substantial evidence that the Wisconsin statute had precisely that effect.
For example, a political scientist testified that it is likely that more than 63,000 residents of Milwaukee do not have the required photo ID, and that black residents are 40 percent more likely than whites not to have such ID. In addition, one-third of those without a photo ID do not have the underlying documents, like a birth certificate, needed to get one. The court heard testimony from several such witnesses, including Lorene Hutchins, a 93-year-old black woman who was born at home in Mississippi at a time when the state’s hospitals refused to accept black patients.
For those living in poverty or on a fixed income, who are disproportionately people of color, even the $20 charge to get a copy of a birth certificate can be unaffordable, and is in practice no different from a poll tax. As is typical in voter ID cases, the state presented virtually no evidence of voter fraud in defending the law. One election official could not recall a single case of identity fraud in his three decades of service to the state.
Full Article: Voter ID Gets Another Day in Court – NYTimes.com.