VOTER ID LAW Stymied in Wisconsin and Texas: Those without Voter ID join felons and the mentally incompetent as disenfranchised classes of citizens.

Dane County Judge Richard Neiss took a look at the Wisconsin State Constitution, Wisconsin’s Supreme Law, and noted that only persons who were convicted felons or declared mentally incompetent among the over 18 population of the residents of the State could be denied the right and ability to vote. The State Constitution says nothing about persons without valid ID. Therefore, a third group and new class of persons is now denied the right to vote under the State of Wisconsin’s new Voter ID law. The new law appears to contradict or violate the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin. As with the Federal system, any law that is found to violate Constitutional law is void. So Neiss did the correct thing and declared the law to be unconstitutional in Wisconsin.

“It’s a shame activist Dane County judges continue to stand in the way of common sense,” said Cullen Werwie, spokesman for Governor Scott Walker. Werwie is the man that was granted immunity in the John Doe Probe of electioneering on government time in violation of the law when Walker was Milwaukee County Executive. Walker just last Friday created a Legal Defense Fund to guide him through any legal difficulties the probe may uncover that involve Walker.

It could be said, that every time a court rules on the constitutionality of a law that they are being activists in that they create new supreme law. The Citizens United decision more firmly established the ideas that money is speech protected under the First Amendment, and that corporations are human beings just like those that formerly were known by that designation. Do we view this decision as judicial activism? Who but the judges know? The decision rendered yesterday will certainly be overturned later this spring where a comfortable 4-3 majority waits to do Walker’s bidding. So this thing is going to be the law one way or the other. The politicization of the State Supreme Court here and that of the U.S. Supreme Court is taking us into new territory raising questions about the utility of courts of law at all. Nor are constitutions to be respected. It is common sense of course Mr. Werwie that multi-national corporations are people. Mitt Romney said so and so it must be true.

Wisconsin’s little drama has national implications as on the same day the U.S. Justice department declared that a similar Texas Voter ID law violated the Voting Rights Act. Wisconsin Voter ID supporters point out that Indiana’s Voter ID law has been found to be Constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. But the challenge that was successful in Wisconsin depended on the dammed inconvenient tendency of the Wisconsin Constitution to be a democratic document, “small d.” The Justice Department could never rule on Wisconsin Voter ID laws because the state has no history of discrimination by race in voting: at least not until now. The State Supreme Court ignored the requirement that all public officials had to follow the State’s Open Meetings Law and that the Constitution of Wisconsin requires that the “people’s house” be always open when the legislature is doing anything. That ruling was by a 4-3 vote, the deciding vote cast by a justice who got tens of thousands of dollars in free legal help from the very law firm that was bringing the case on behalf of the Walker camp. So expect this decision to be overturned on precisely the same basis and what shred of respect real citizens have for our State’s highest court will be gone.

But the law protects against the widespread voter fraud in the State you say. Or it protects against fraud at some future date that could be decades or centuries in the future. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did some very sloppy reportage in covering the decision. They simply said opponents claimed that voter fraud was rare giving what they mistakenly think is fairness and balance. A phone call to state authorities could have gotten those statistics on actual fraud. Let readers decide how rare those numbers make it. They would have discovered that there was one case in 2010 for the off year Congressional election: a couple that had honestly cancelled a trip and forgot they had first voted absentee. The Journal-Sentinel should have given us the stats on voter fraud where cases were prosecuted and convictions obtained. That number is small.

If you are going to commit voter fraud in Wisconsin, you have to know the name and address of the voter who you are impersonating, the fact that he or she has not voted and will not vote, that no one knows what the voter being impersonated looks like. And that the voter won’t change his or her mind and wander in right after you’ve left. This is a very low yield, high risk operation. Chicago and Cook County got away with this until the State of Illinois forced them to update their voter records by computer and to report what they had done each month to state election officials. That made the dead and those that had moved out of state years ago less likely to show up at the polls. Let us hope that Wisconsin is still at least somewhat more honest in terms of elections than the City of Big Shoulders. This has a lot to do with why voter fraud is so rare.

What the Voter ID law misses Governor Walker are the big crooks who run the State and what they can do to manipulate voting via availability of voting machines, election personnel and more. There are many types of fraud in elections. We could use some fraudulent voting in this State if nothing more than to increase voter turnout!

One accommodation between the two sides, those people who want all citizens who have the right to vote to cast ballots, and those that want to protect against illegality and anticipate problems in lawmaking that currently do not yet exist and have not since Wisconsin became a State in 1848, is to fully finance the law and to provide ID’s to people by having state workers go out to voters. The fee for getting the Voter ID could be eliminated as it violates the Voting Rights Act.

And we must ask Governor Walker just why it is so important to make it more difficult to vote? We already have a participation problem in our elections that is the worst among the world’s democracies. People of color, the poor, the elderly, college students, and the like are not the enemy. They are citizens like everyone else. Wisconsin citizens will lose the right and ability to register to vote on Election Day provided they bring documentation. Why not invest in providing additional support to election officials at polling places so that this can be done? Why not permit the Voter ID’s to be processed right there? In a real democracy the participation of every single citizen is wanted.

To think that so many veterans who fought for the right to vote and to speak and to be free may have died in vain is not something we want to see. Just the other day, in the Ohio primary, an 86-year-old veteran was denied the right to vote because he did not have a Voter ID. His veteran’s card was not enough. Will we maintain this democracy in the United States? Or is it a relic of some distant past we see as if in a dream?

6 thoughts on “VOTER ID LAW Stymied in Wisconsin and Texas: Those without Voter ID join felons and the mentally incompetent as disenfranchised classes of citizens.

  1. If it were a priority for me to vote, I would make the necessary arrangements to make sure I could. I’m not sure what you find so difficult about having a photo ID. For Pete’s sake, I need a photo ID to purchase Sudafed at Walmart! Interesting that unions require photo ID for voting…
    Getting a FREE photo ID at the DMV seems reasonable….what makes you believe that the residents of Wisconsin are incapable of being responsible for themselves???

  2. Driving a car is not a constitutional right, nor is getting a prescription at Walmart via photo ID. But voting is. That’s why. I do favor VOTER ID if it is fully funded to allow people without ID’s to obtain them without charge and at any government center near where they live. Let’s spend the money to ensure the integrity of our elections without leaving anyone with the right to vote under our Constituion out. Political scientists have pretty good numbers on the impact of these laws. It suppresses the vote of about six percent of registered voters, mainly disproportionately the elderly who do not get out much, (of both parties), people who cannot afford a car and so have no driver’s license. A number of photo ID’s people have are not valid for voting in Wisconson under this law. You have to pay a fee for the ID which is a violation of the Voting Rights Act on its face. People who live below the poverty line $20,000 for a family of four or 46 million of us nationwide would be most likely not to be able to pay even that and the further cost of obtaining the short form of their birth certificate which in most states would cost you thirty to forty dollars. This too is a Poll Tax and violates the Voting Rights Act if you have to pay for the birth certificate in order to get the ID to vote. People that are black, Latinos, the elderly and college students, all core Democratic constituencies are affected most. Scott Walker has complained about the cost of the Voter ID Law that is woefully underfudned to protect the right to vote here as it is. Not only is this voter disenfranchisement when they have committed no crime, but it is an unfair advantage for Republicans. That’s the real motivation for these laws Holly. The RNC has worked on perfecting voter suppression since the Gore vs. Bush election in 2000. The law even makes certifying voter registration done in the field by bi–partisan groups like the League of Women Voters (not ACORN) much more difficult so that even they have abandoned doing so. One of the plaintiffs is the non-partisan League of Women Voters who are committed to getting everyone with a right to vote registered and able to vote and out to the polls. It is very hard for you and yes even I sometimes to fathom how people could not have a photo ID driver’s license or valid U.S. passport and such to vote under the new law. You and I live in a completly different world from the people described here. Poverty is not and should not be a barrier to the right to vote. There is no requirement that voters own land here and never was. Eastern states abandoned that in the 1820’s. If having no voter fraud is so vital we can spend the money to ensure we do not take away a citizen’s Constituional right to vote, the most sacred right we have to protect us against the incursions of government and its excesses: the ballot. That’s why I oppose these laws Holly. Beyond partisan bickering even more important is this matter of moral and political principle in a democracy.

    • I am again amazed at how little faith you seem to have in people’s ability to take responsibility for thier own lives. You speak of the elderly and the disabled having a difficult time because they would need to purchase a certified birth certificate. I’m sure you know that a certified birth certificate is required to file for Social Security, and that birth certificate is returned to the individual. That would be all an elderly or disabled person would need to obtain their FREE ID for voting purposes. I notice how your ‘poll tax’ has changed…first you used it to refer to the cost of an ID, and once it was widely known that said ID is free, you now use the cost of a birth certificate. The plain and simple truth is that a photo ID is something every person should have, and easy enough to obtain if an individual takes the initiative. In fact, I’m sure even YOU needed a photo ID when you retired from teaching and began drawing your guaranteed, taxpayer provided pension.

  3. Holly: Simply note that the League of Women Voters shares my lack of faith in the ability of the poor, the elderly, and people of color in certain economic situations to obtain the necessary ID. Note also that the United States Department of Justice shares my view about these laws. Note also that factually both the fee for the card and the cost of getting documentation are poll taxes under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I think you misunderstand that all costs for obtaining the card would be viewed as barriers to voting rights by the Federal Government. I also indicated that you and I have no trouble meeting the requriements of the law.. I have a good education and though retired still drive a car. I’m writing books and am an adjunct professor of history at Carroll University. The taxpayer provided pension is under law and you can check with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) a State of Wisconsin government agency that every thing I earned on that pension was part of my compensation for working as both a Security Officer 1 at UW Madison from 1980-85 and and at Mukwonago High School for 26 years. When computing the compensation package in contract negotiations both management and labor here in Wisconsin in our pension system deduct everything contributed to that pension by both worker and employer from what is negotiated and agreed to for all those years. If not in the employee pension, the money would be paid out to me as I earned the salary for my work over 31.6 years rather than as a pension. The pooling of this money by all public servants in Wisconsin over the years and investing in our nation, have produced one of the best funded and managed pensions in the nation. In point of fact, this money belongs to the annuitunts under the terms of the money set aside in trust for all the persons in the fund. Were Mukwonago High School over those years not to have had a pension fund to put the money in, the money would have been simply paid to me in my twice monthly pay checks for all those years and I suppose we could have invested it in a Met Life annuity my family has maintained instead. I receive three thousand dollars each month in annuity payments (pension). At age 62 that will be reduced to less than $2,500 as per the option I chose for disbursement of the money to me. My wife’s job as a transportation planner she has held for 27 years with the Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission means she now pays more for that longtime pension she has, and we pay more also for my health insurance until what is left of Medicare kicks in. We are proud to make those additional payments to the State of Wisconsin. Public servants all over the state are contributing three hundred and thirty million more dollars from their pockets to the State budget each year. Public servants in our State would have had the option of taking this money for pensions in their paychecks since the pension system was put into place decades and decades ago. In the private sector, this money would have been simply part of your regular paycheck. I do not believe I have defrauded the taxpayer in any manner in my entire work life as a public servant. This also has nothing to do with the post on this Voter ID law. I noted that you and I Holly would not find it difficult to meet the law’s requirements. But there are roughly about six percent of the Wisconsin electorate who would. I must say emphatically again for readers of this blog that the right to vote is a right under the Constitution of the United States and that of the State of Wisconsin as well. There will be both Republicans, Democrats, and Independents who will not be able to meet the requirements of the new law and they will not be permitted to vote as is their right. You may be black or Latino, but many of those people have been barred legally from voting in the Southern states impacted by Jim Crow Laws in our nation’s past. Women fought for a century to obtain the right to vote for you Holly. This is important. It ought to be a non-partisan question. I’d invite other readers of this blog to dialogue on this issue. Perhaps they could educate you on the history of the right to vote and how it is a sacred and legally protected Constitutional right for citizens of the nation. That a small percentage of our State’s voters would face a higher barrier to clear than you or I is of concern to any citizen who values these things. I do. I’ve given you the League of Women Voters to check out as to why they are plaintiffs in the effort to overturn the Voter ID law, I have given you the position of the U.S. Department of Justice, and of a source, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission or WERC, the State Agency that oversees any bargaining between public servants in our State and their employers on the fact that pensions are part of the compensation received (that is pay) that teachers like me get and it is set aside under State Law that operates the pension via the Department of Employee Trust Funds. It is not some cheap taxpayer ripoff. All the police, firefighters. snowplowers, clerks, office staff, department employees that make our government go in State Government, County Government, and local municipal government particpate. People have served you faithfully as long as you have been here and this is part of what they have earned. If you are of the position that I or anyone employed in public sector work should not be paid for that then I am sorry but we have a very big gulf between us and I am sad for you. The issue under discussion under this thread is the Constitutional right to vote and not my pension. I do not resent you for the money you make for the work you do. Please accord me and the hundreds of thousands of annuitiants under the pension fund the respect we deserve too.

  4. Directly from the WI constituion: “Right to keep and bear arms. SECTION 25. The people have the right to keep and bear arms for
    security, defense, hunting, recreation or any other lawful purpose.

    Right to fish, hunt, trap, and take game. SECTION 26.

    The people have the right to fish, hunt,
    trap, and take game subject only to reasonable restrictions as
    prescribed by law.

    Yet I have to show my ID to get a fishing license. AND I have to pay a fee. Hmmmm, perhaps there IS precedent for laws to require ID to exercise one’s rights

  5. Erik: no disagreement here. Wisconsin voters will have to pass the change in the Wisconsin Constitution adding those without a valid ID as an excluded group from voting rights. Or, the State Supreme Court would have to rule to uphold it. As to appeals from there from either side: abundant opportunities because the right to vote is a Federal matter in all 50 states and ultimately the Voting Rirhts Act of 1965 does apply here as in all the other 49 states. I merely took a vehement objection to Holly’s insinuation that I was somehow an unusually privileged person who did not deserve my pension. I worked hard for 31.6 years to get it. The money (mine) went in for that time and now I am starting to draw it out. I suppose I could have simply put the money into a mutual fund annuity for that time if that were made an option or there was no pension system. But all of my and my families’ financial planning has been predicated on this pension and where it fits into both my semi-retirement with two teens in the house yet and afterward when I will slide into fulll geezerhood. Both you and Holly are two of my best readers and contributors with your comments on blog posts. The rest of the stuff is fine. Thanks for the both of you and your sincere interest in these issues however we may disagree. You both are fine citizens.

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