Wisconsin Voter ID Law Big Topic At Walker-Burke Debate

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Friday night was the first of two debates between Scott Walker and Mary Burke. To say that Burke won the debate would be an understatement. Why? Well, for starters, she actually used facts when talking about issues, whereas Walker pulled his stories right out of the air.

There is no better illustration of this than the debate over the Wisconsin Voter ID law, where Walker spoke in lofty terms of protecting the state from even one voter casting a vote fraudently. Here he goes:

WALKER: I was at a town hall meeting in Appleton, and took questions from the crowd, and I was asked how many cases of fraud there have been. I said, does not matter if it was one or a hundred or a thousand. Who was that one person who would want to have their vote canceled out by a vote cancelled illegally? We used that in 2012, it worked well, there were no problems reported. The problem is going back and forth in the courts, and that is the problem with the Supreme Court Decision. Whether or not the Attorney General has the ability to move forward, I have not talked to him directly. Certainly we will abide by what the court says.

As Capper already documented, there have been ZERO cases of fraudulent voters in Wisconsin. Zero. But there has been voter fraud. Like, for example, the Republican voter who cast different ballots in several different precincts for Scott Walker and Alberta Darling in 2011 and 2012. Voter ID didn't stop that little instance of ballot box stuffing. His ID was perfectly fine. He just didn't remember casting those pesky other votes.

Mary Burke hit hard on the principles behind Walker's voter suppression defense.

BURKE: It is shocking to me to hear that the Governor would say that he does not care if there was only one instance of fraud, and would put these roadblocks in front of 300,000 people who would find it difficult to get the ID and to vote, even though there are no identified cases of fraud and it could cost millions and millions of dollars to implement. That is just not common sense and is not what I would do as Governor.

And so once again, Walker rebuts with a cute little anecdote which illustrates exactly nothing.

WALKER: In 2008, the Milwaukee police department issued a report on the fraud they saw alone in 2004. There is more than just one case, there are many cases. Again, I go back and say that this is common sense reform, it has been in place for three years. We offered free ID for people who do not have access to a driver's license upon request. Since the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the law, we offered a process where they could get access to documentation.

That report Walker refers to seems to indicate there was massive voter fraud all on the part of the Democrats. But when it was investigated, it came down to three possible cases, none of which were prosecuted and none of which would have been resolved by this Voter ID law.

When the US Supreme Court issued their stay, they also ordered the full 10-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider reviewing their decision on the merits. Once again, they split 5-5. Justin Leavitt at the Election Law Blog reports:

The 7th Circuit, sitting en banc, just split again 5-5 over whether to review the panel opinion’s decision on the merits. Judge Posner had apparently asked for the vote himself, and wrote 28 pages disagreeing with the refusal to take the case en banc. His Appendix — the documentation and bureaucratic process required of one person trying to get the underlying papers to secure an ID — is clearly aimed squarely at Judge Easterbrook: it’s entitled “Scrounging for your birth certificate in Wisconsin.”

Judge Posner is hardly a liberal. He's not a hard-core conservative, but he is conservative. Here's what he wrote about his colleagues' decision to block a rehearing of the case on the merits.

The panel is not troubled by the absence of evidence. It deems the supposed beneficial effect of photo ID requirements on public confidence in the electoral system "'a legislative fact' -- a proposition about the state of the world," and asserts that "on matters of legislative fact, courts accept the findings of legislatures and judges of the lower courts must accept findings by the Supreme Court." In so saying, the panel conjures up a fact-free cocoon in which to lodge the federal judiciary. As there is no evidence that voter-impersonation fraud is a problem, how can the fact that a legislature says it's a problem turn it into one? If the Wisconsin legislature says witches are a problem, shall Wisconsin courts be permitted to conduct witch trials?

He didn't stop there, and this may be the most important part of his opinion:

If the Supreme Court once thought that requiring photo identification increases public confidence in elections, and experience and academic study since shows that the court was mistaken, do we do a favor to the Court -- do we increase public confidence in elections -- by making the mistake a premise of our decision? Pressed to its logical extreme the panel's interpretation of and deference to legislative facts would require upholding a photo ID voter law even if it were uncontested that the law eliminated no fraud but did depress turnout significantly.

That last piece of his argument there was just confirmed by the GAO, who reported (factually) that strict Voter ID laws do significantly suppress the vote, particularly among young people and minorities, who are more likely to vote for Democrats!

Since the appellate court is evenly split, it is now up to the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a stay which will stick through these midterms. I expect Voter ID in Wisconsin and elsewhere will then find its way into arguments before the Supreme Court, and further expect they will once again decide on a 5-4 basis to continue allowing states to suppress people's right to vote.

Mary Burke is absolutely right here. It's shocking that they would invent a fiction around voter fraud and claim that stopping even one fraudulent voter is worth suppressing the votes of 300,000.

I'll bet this one single non-fraudulent but now excluded voter agrees with her.

The biggest opponent of the state's new voter ID law just may be an 84-year-old woman who stands less than 5 feet tall, has lived in the same house nearly her entire life and has served on her Village Board since 1996.

Ruthelle Frank doesn't have a driver's license, doesn't have a birth certificate and hasn't been able to get a state identification card, which means that she could be out of luck the next time she tries to vote.

"The whole thing upsets me," Frank said Wednesday. "You could live in the U.S. of A., live in the same house all these years and you don't have the right to vote."

Frank is a plaintiff in the lawsuit filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union against the state over the new law that requires voters to show government-issued photo identification.


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