Last week brought two rare pieces of good news for voting rights advocates. In Wisconsin, Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan granted a temporary injunction, requested by the League of Women Voters, preventing implementation of the state’s photo identification requirement for voting. Meanwhile, the Third Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals reaffirmed a 1982 consent decree preventing the Republican National Committee from intimidating minority voters. Unfortunately, voter intimidation and disenfranchisement will still occur, in Wisconsin and throughout the country.
In Wisconsin, the law is facing three challenges. The first, which is before Judge Flanagan, argues that a photo identification requirement violates the right of every citizen to vote guaranteed by the Wisconsin state constitution. Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, is appealing Flanagan’s injunction to the state Court of Appeals. It will ultimately end up in the Wisconsin State Supreme Court, which has a majority of Republican appointees. Much like their counterparts in the U.S. Supreme Court, those judges reliably side with Republicans and conservatives. They are unlikely to overturn the law, which was passed by a Republican legislature and signed by Republican Governor Scott Walker. “The state will win this 4-3,” predicts Sam Munger, a researcher at the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, a think tank at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
There are also two challenges to Wisconsin’s law in federal court. One, brought by the Advancement Project, argues that the law violates the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Another, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, makes the same argument and also contends that it violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In southern states, such as Georgia and Texas, when voting rights advocates wish to challenge a photo ID law, they have a more powerful weapon at their disposal. Section 5 of the VRA governs only southern states with a history of racially discriminatory voting laws. In those states, showing a racially discriminatory impact can overturn a voting law. In Wisconsin, Section 5 does not apply and so a challenge must be brought under Section 2 of the VRA, which gives the state more leeway and places a higher burden of proof with regard to discrimination.
Full Article: Will the Courts Protect Voting Rights? | The Nation.