March 26, 2015

With legal fight on Voter ID done, Wisconsin group looks to educate

WRN: File Photo

WRN: File Photo

Monday’s decision by the US Supreme Court not to hear a challenge to Wisconsin’s Voter ID law marked the end of a long legal battle.

The law, passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Governor Scott Walker in 2011, was used in just a single election – a primary race in early 2012. A long line of state and federal court decisions have kept it from being used since then. However, after the nation’s high court declined to hear an appeal of a decision this week that upheld the law, it will be in effect after the upcoming April 7 elections.

Andrea Kaminski is the executive director of the Wisconsin League of Women Voters, which filed one of the original challenges in state court that stopped the law. She expressed disappointment in the outcome of the federal case and is worried that it will keep thousands of voters from being able to cast a ballot in the future. Kaminski said “in the course of these lawsuits, it’s been revealed that an estimated 300,000 voters in our state don’t possess the kind of ID that this very strict law requires.”

The state Department of Transportation has continued to provide free photo ID cards to individuals who say they need one for voting, and there is a process in place to help individuals who lack the documentation needed to get a card. Kaminski worries about making sure voters know what assistance is available to them, and added that it’s unfortunate the state will likely rely on non-profit groups to get that message out.

After the April election, Kaminski said her group plans to work to educate voters about what they will need to vote in the future. Next February is expected to be the first statewide election voters where will have to show a photo ID at the polls to obtain a ballot.

Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates debate

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, Judge James Daley

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, Judge James Daley

With the election now just two weeks away – and still not on the radar of most voters – candidates for state Supreme Court participated in a debate on Wednesday in Madison. Rock County circuit court judge James Daley was asked about his decision to accept money from the state Republican party – in what’s supposedly a nonpartisan election.

“Receiving in-kind or monetary donation from a political party is legal, so I’m not going to apologize for accepting a legal, in-kind donation,” Daley said. “You’ll have to talk to the legislature on that. The claim has been that by accepting that donation, I of course am saying that I am supporting everything that the Republican Party of Wisconsin does. Not true.”

Daley is challenging Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, the second-longest serving justice on the state’s high court. “I need and want the votes of Republicans and Democrats and independents and everyone in between, but I strongly believe that political parties should stay out of judicial races,” Bradley said. “It is not my vision that a justice should be supportive or oppose the agenda of any political party.”

Daley said Bradley is a judicial activist with a liberal agenda, and he’s the conservative in the race. He said he has spoken with Republicans and others who agree with his conservative judicial philosophy. “They don’t like that Justice Bradley has brought her extreme liberal personal politics into the court,” he said.

“Our only agenda is an agenda to uphold the constitution, and the law, and to serve the people of Wisconsin,” Bradley said.

Bradley charged that Daley has also accepted financial support from third party, out-of-state special interests. Daley countered that there is no proof of those assertions – and that in past elections Bradley has accepted donations from third party groups, including the AFL-CIO, AFSCE and WEAC.

Tuesday’s debate at the Madison Club was sponsored by the Dane County Bar Association.

The race between Daley and Bradley, along with a constitutional amendment dealing with how the court’s chief justice is chosen, are the only statewide issues on the April 7th ballot. While races for mayor in cities including Madison, Green Bay and Racine will likely drive up local voter interest, state Elections Board director Kevin Kennedy expects statewide turnout of about 20 percent, similar to a typical Supreme Court race.

Wisconsin GAB predicts 20 percent voter turnout for April 7 election

Wisconsin GAB director Kevin Kennedy (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

Wisconsin GAB director Kevin Kennedy (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

The head of the state Government Accountability Board says only about 20 percent of voters statewide are expected to show up at the polls for the April 7th elections.

The only statewide race on the ballot is between state Supreme Court Justice Anne Walsh Bradley and challenger, Rock County Judge James Daley. With the race not receiving much attention so far, GAB director Kevin Kennedy expects turnout will be similar to a typical Supreme Court race, with about 883,000 members of the state’s voting age population showing up at the polls.

Also on the ballot is a proposed state constitutional amendment changing how the chief justice of the high court is selected. Currently, the most senior member of the bench serves in the position. The amendment would have the court vote on its leadership going forward. While he says it may be a statewide factor, Kennedy does not think it will drive turnout above 20 percent.

Wisconsin Voter ID law will not be in effect for April 7 elections

File photo: WRN

File photo: WRN

Wisconsin voters will not have to show a government-issued photo ID when they head to the polls April 7, despite a decision by the US Supreme Court on Monday not to hear a challenge to the state’s long stalled Voter ID law. The decision means the law will be allowed to go into effect, but Attorney General Brad Schimel said in a statement Monday morning that, because absentee ballots have already been sent out for the spring elections, “the law cannot be implemented for the April 7 election.”

However, Schimel noted that the Voter ID law will be in place for future elections.

The Supreme Court on Monday morning declined to hear an appeal of a decision from last fall, in which a federal appeals court found Wisconsin’s Voter ID requirement is constitutional. The high court had put the ruling on hold though while considered the appeal, because it came close to the November elections and there were concerns it could cause chaos for voters. The American Civil Liberties Union had filed an emergency request Monday morning to have that stay continued, until after the April 7 elections.

The law has been on hold for much of the past three years. It was used in just a single election in early 2012 before a Dane County judge issued the first injunction blocking its enforcement. The state Supreme Court had previously found the law is constitutional. Schimel, who took office just earlier this year, praised the work of the Department of Justice in defending the law against multiple challenges. He said “Our legal team did an outstanding job defending Wisconsin law, from the trial court to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

In a statement, Governor Scott Walker called the ruling “great news for Wisconsin voters. As we’ve said, this is a common sense reform that protects the integrity of our voting process, making it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”

The League of Women Voters, which had filed a previous challenge in state court that was part of the first wave of cases that put the law on hold, expressed disappointment in the US Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case. Director Andrea Kaminski said the issue was a matter of national importance, “More and more states are passing strict voter ID laws, and we have all heard the stories of good citizens who have run into problems because they don’t possess an acceptable, government issued ID. The problem with our elections is that not enough people vote in them. The last thing we need is laws that erect barriers for people who have been good voters for decades.”

Kaminski said her group will be working to educate voters about the requirement, after the April 7 elections.

Officials with the state Government Accountability Board said the earliest they expect voters in a statewide election will be required to show a photo ID will be for the spring primary on February 16, 2016.

US Supreme Court declines to take Wisconsin Voter ID case

© Jarek Tuszynski / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 & GDFL, via Wikimedia Commons

UPDUS Supreme Court (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

UPDATED: In a statement, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said that Wisconsin’s Voter ID law will not be in effect for the upcoming April 7 election, because absentee ballots have already been sent out. However, Schimel noted that “The Voter ID law will be in place for future elections – this decision is final.”

The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal in a case challenging Wisconsin’s Voter ID law, creating confusion for election officials just two weeks before the state’s spring elections.

The law had been on hold since last fall, after justices put a stay in place while they decided whether to take up a federal appeals court ruling that found the law is Constitutional. The stay followed claims from the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the requirement that voters show a government-issued photo identification card at the polls, could cause chaos during the November elections. Monday’s decision not to take the case means the appeals court decision will stand, which could put the requirement back in play for Wisconsin’s April 7 elections.

The ACLU has filed an emergency motion with a federal appeals court to keep the law from immediately taking effect. In a statement, ACLU Voting Rights Project director Dale Ho noted that “although the Supreme Court has declined to take this case, it previously made clear that states may not impose new requirements for voting in the weeks before Election Day. The situation is even more compelling here because absentee ballots have already been mailed out for the April election, and early in-person voting has begun. Imposing a new restriction in the midst of an election will disenfranchise voters who have already cast their ballots. It is a recipe for disaster.”

Officials with the state Government Accountability Board were still evaluating the ruling. A statement posted on the elections agency’s website said they are “awaiting direction from the Wisconsin Department of Justice in anticipation of future action by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on implementation of Wisconsin’s Voter Photo ID Law.”

Wisconsin’s voter ID law has been the subject of a long legal battle since it was first enacted by Republicans in 2011. It was only in effect for a single primary election in early 2012, before a Dane County judge put it on hold. Further state and federal court challenges have kept it from being enforced for much of the past three years.