Voter ID advocates and opponents alike will be watching Wisconsin on Monday as a new federal trial on the state’s photo ID law begins. The case is the first federal trial under the Voting Rights Act since the Supreme Court struck down part of the law in June, and it’s one of the first cases to challenge voter ID under what’s known as Section 2 of the VRA. Section 2, which was unaffected by the Supreme Court’s decision, prohibits procedures that discriminate based on race and other protected groups. “I think that everyone’s going to be looking at what happens in Wisconsin,” said Rick Hasen, a University of California, Irvine, law and political science professor and author of Election Law Blog. “Whoever’s on the successful side will say, ‘See, we told you,’ and whoever’s on the losing side will either say the court got it wrong or point to factual differences [in their state], but it will be important because it’s one of the first Section 2 challenges to the voting ID law.” The trial covers two challenges to the law, one brought by the group Advancement Project, which argues that the Wisconsin law is particularly burdensome on voters of color, and another brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, which focuses on minorities as well as elderly, student, low-income, disabled and homeless voters.
Advancement Project says a statistician working for them found 24.8 percent of registered Latino voters, 16.2 percent of registered African-American voters and 15.7 percent of registered Asian-American voters lack state ID, compared with 9.5 percent of registered white voters.
One of the significant problems with the law, the civil rights groups say, is that it requires a Wisconsin-issued ID, which in turn requires a birth certificate. Minority voters are far less likely to have access to their birth certificates, the groups say, and in some cases have to go to extraordinary measures to obtain them, if they can get them at all. Under the new laws, these voters, many of whom have participated in elections for years, will simply be unable to cast a ballot.
“One of our jobs is to sort of provide information to the court that for middle class or upper middle class people, especially people who don’t live in a city, everybody has a driver’s license, so if you go around with a driver’s license in your pocket, you don’t think anything of being required to show it. But there are lots of people who don’t have driver’s licenses and it’s difficult to get them,” said Advancement Project Programs Managing Director James Eichner, who is arguing the Wisconsin case in court.
Full Article: Wisconsin voter ID trial begins