Roughly 300,000 Wisconsin residents, most of whom are African-American and Latinos, would not be able to vote under a state law requiring a photo ID at the polls.
Numerous experts testifying to this fact prompted Judge Lynn Adelman, of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Wisconsin, to rule Tuesday that Wisconsin’s Voter ID law violated the 14th amendment of the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, which bars states from imposing rules that abridge a citizen’s right to vote based on race or color.
The significant number of residents who would be disenfranchised is also the reason Adelman included in his decision a provision that requires Wisconsin officials to seek legal approval of any revised or new Voter ID bill passed into law.
“It is difficult to see how an amendment to the photo ID requirement could remove its disproportionate racial impact and discriminatory result,” Adelman wrote.
Republicans last November introduced an alternative Voter ID bill, AB 493, in case a judge ruled the original law unconstitutional. The Assembly already approved the measure and Gov. Scott Walker has said he would call a special session this summer to give lawmakers a chance to pass the bill. But on Wednesday, the governor sounded less optimistic that the new bill would survive Adelman's scrutiny, instead eyeing an appeal.
"I didn’t see any evidence to suggest that Judge Adelman gave any suggestion that this could be upheld if a tweak was made here or there," Walker said in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal. "The decision from Adelman was basically just an outright opposition to the concept.
“There wasn’t any message given that this is technically a problem and if this were changed, this was just basically a full-out rejection of the position," the governor added. "And one that we think will not be sustained.”
A main defect of the Wisconsin law is the disproportionate impact it has when coupled with past or present discrimination, according to Adelman.
“Blacks and Latinos in Wisconsin are disproportionately likely to live in poverty,” Adelman wrote in the decision. “Individuals who live in poverty are less likely to drive or participate in other activities for which a photo ID may be required (such as banking, air travel, and international travel) and so they obtain fewer benefits from possession of a photo ID than do individuals who can afford to participate in these activities.”
Unlike the 2011 version, AB 493 would allow a veterans identification card issued by the Veterans Health Administration to be used at the polls.
AB 493 also allows a voter to sign an affidavit if they consider themselves to be indigent and cannot obtain proof of identification without paying a fee, has a religious objection to being photographed or cannot obtain the necessary documents like a birth certificate required to obtain a photo ID.
“There is no logic for them to keep pushing for this (Voter ID),” said Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. “It looks like they don’t want certain people to be voting.”