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?