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Federal Court Strikes Down Wisconsin Voter ID Law
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Wisconsin Federal District Court Judge Lynn Adelman ruled this week that the state’s voter ID law violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The federal court found almost 300,000 registered voters in Wisconsin lacking the government-issued ID card required to cast a vote in elections.

“To put this number in context,” wrote Adelman, “In 2010 the race for governor in Wisconsin was decided by 124,638 votes, and the race for United States Senator was decided by 105,041 votes. Thus, the number of registered voters who lack a qualifying ID is large enough to change the outcome of Wisconsin elections.”


Adelman also observed that the voter ID law put minorities at a disadvantage and impacted lower-income voters. He wrote, “Blacks and Latinos in Wisconsin are disproportionately likely to live in poverty … and therefore to lack a qualifying ID … because they have suffered from , and continue to suffer from, the effects of discrimination.”

The judge further pointed out that Wisconsin had failed to substantiate the need for the Voter ID law with evidence of voter fraud. He observed the evidence at the trial demonstrated, “virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin.” He observed that the defense had failed to provide a single instance of voter impersonation in Wisconsin in the recent past, and, as a result, “Act 23 will prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes.”

Adelman’s judgment on the issue gains added significance because it is the first time a voter ID law has been challenged and struck down under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Traditionally, Section 2 has been used in cases that involved dilution of votes like remapping legislative districts. After the U.S. Supreme Court literally killed Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act last year, the Department of Justice have been trying to use Section 2 to challenge voter ID laws that are suspect of being discriminatory.

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