Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning
Election laws in Wisconsin are not covered by Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, which would otherwise require the Dept. of Justice or a federal panel of judges to "preclear" such laws to assure they are not discriminatory. Thus, it falls to non-governmental organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), to take legal action in hopes of protecting Constitutional voting rights for citizens of the Badger State.
That's exactly what the organization did this week, in filing a 54-page federal complaint on behalf of some 17 named plaintiffs --- including elderly, student, minority and even veteran voters --- who may well be unable to cast their once-legal vote under the state's new voter suppression bill passed earlier this year by its GOP legislature and signed into law by its Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
The lead plaintiff in Frank vs. Walker [PDF], the ACLU's class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District, seeking to halt enforcement of the state's new photo ID voting restrictions, is 84-year old Ruthelle Frank.
As we previously reported, Frank has been a lawful resident of Brokaw, WI since her home birth in 1927. Although she has voted in every election since 1948 and is an elected member of the Brokaw Village Board, she learned that she may be barred from voting come February 2012 because she lacks one of the official photo IDs mandated by that state's new vote-suppressing photo ID law.
She was born at home, without a birth certificate, and will be forced to pay $20 to get one in order to get her supposedly "free" ID to vote. But even that may not be enough. Frank recently learned she may not be able to comply with the state GOP's Photo ID restriction unless she coughs up upwards of $200 to amend the Register of Deeds record of her home, which had misspelled her maiden name.
The feisty octogenarian, however, was not about to quietly accept this assault on a right she had exercised without interference for the past 63 years (see a video interview with her below), and so she agreed to lead the ACLU suit.
The ACLU complaint, however, may serve to be larger than just the 17 voters (and thousands of others included as part of 6 different classes) in the state of Wisconsin. If it succeeds, the lawsuit could have national implications that would go well beyond the question of who gets to vote in Wisconsin in the 2012 Presidential election. The case could serve to reverse the bevy of voter-suppression laws being enacted by Republicans in state after state in the wake of their take-over of statehouses across the nation in November of 2010...