This week's federal court decision to strike down Wisconsin's polling place Photo ID law has national significance and does not bode well for Republicans who have been attempting to advance such electoral schemes in recent years, as based on misleading "facts", wild claims and dishonest interpretations of case law and court precedent.
The court's landmark decision in the Wisconsin case contains a methodology for testing the law's constitutionality that, if applied by other courts in similar federal challenges to similar laws in other states, would likely mark the beginning of the end for Republican-enacted, polling place Photo ID restrictions. We describe that possibility as "likely", given that a careful reading of prior case law suggests that six of the Supreme Court's nine Justices have already subscribed to legal opinions that are consistent with the methodology used by the federal court in Wisconsin.
In late 2011, shortly after the filing of the first of the two federal cases that resulted in this week's ruling finding that Wisconsin's polling place Photo ID law (Act 23) violated both the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), The BRAD BLOG explained why the issues before the federal bench in Wisconsin "could reverse similar laws nationwide."
The 90-page decision and order [PDF] that U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman meticulously crafted, not only after a full trial on the merits, but over a span of more than 3 1/2 months following it, suggests that our earlier prediction may have been an understatement.
In declaring Wisconsin's Republican-enacted Photo ID law unconstitutional and a violation of federal law, Judge Adelman applied a very specific test for the law, one called for by the U.S. Supreme Court back in 2008. That same test, measuring the potential benefits of such laws against their possible harm to voters' rights, if similarly applied elsewhere, would likely invalidate most, if not all of the similar restrictions which have been rammed through numerous GOP-majority state legislatures over the past six years.
While stopping short of describing Republican "justifications" for such laws as a mere pretext for voter suppression, Judge Adelman's decision persuasively finds that the core GOP claims about the supposed need for polling place Photo ID restrictions cannot withstand judicial scrutiny when tested against a fact-based reality in a court of law. The judge found, in no uncertain terms, that such laws are constitutionally infirm because, without legitimate state interests for such restrictions, they serve only to disproportionately disenfranchise the poor, the elderly and minority voters...