On Thursday morning, the ACLU filed an Emergency Application to Vacate [PDF] with the U.S. Supreme Court to vacate a Sept. 14, 2014 stay of a U.S. District Court ruling that had, before the stay, permanently blocked enforcement of a Republican-enacted, Wisconsin photo ID voting law.
The civil rights organization argues that the emergency ruling is needed to prevent mass disenfranchisement and electoral chaos during the upcoming Nov. 4 election. It asks that the Court "leave that injunction in force pending the Seventh Circuit's issuance of a decision on the merits."
As the District Court judge had found, before his decision was overturned by a partisan ruling at the Appellate Court level, Wisconsin's attempted restriction on the voting rights of legally registered voters poses a real and present danger that some 10% of the Badger State's duly registered electorate will likely be prevented from voting in the rapidly approaching November 4 election.
The District Court's injunction had been stayed as a result of a deadlocked court, in which five bipartisan members of the ten-judge U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeal described in a Sept. 29 Opinion [PDF] as a "brazen" and "shocking" disregard of both precedent and the right of the minority to vote. That "shocking" position had been advanced by the attorneys representing Republican Gov. Scott Walker and first accepted by an all-GOP, three-judge panel that had issued an extraordinary, 11th hour decision to vacate the lower court's injunction.
The case now poses an enormous test for at least two key Justices on the high court. Will Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy adhere to the very principles they signed on to when they joined the plurality opinion authored by former Justice John Paul Stevens in the landmark 2008 SCOTUS decision in Crawford v. Marion County Board of Elections? That case upheld Indiana's Photo ID law against a "facial" challenge solely because, in the words of the plurality opinion, there was no evidence before the court at the time to prove anyone would be disenfranchised or that their right to vote would be unduly burdened by the law.
In signing onto Steven's lead opinion, both Roberts and Kennedy agreed that election laws, including photo ID voting restrictions, are subject to the Anderson/Burdick test. That test mandates that courts, on a case-by-case basis, measure a law's potential damage to voters' right to vote against the specific claims made by the state as to why such additional burdens and restrictions are necessary. Given that the state has offered no legitimate reason for potentially disenfranchising as much as 10% of Wisconsin's lawfully registered voters, Roberts and Kennedy cannot refuse to lift the stay without a total abandonment of principle...