A few weeks ago, our legal analyst Ernie Canning warned how the U.S. Supreme Court's pending decision on whether or not to hear the ACLU's challenge to the Wisconsin GOP Photo ID voting law might be the last chance before the 2016 Presidential elections to determine the Constitutionality of such laws.
On Monday, the Supreme Court decided not to grant cert in the WI challenge in the Frank v. Walker case. The decision is not a ruling on the merits of the case or the Constitutionality of the law. It simply means that, for now, there were not four votes on the Court to hear the ACLU's challenge at this time.
It also means that, barring further court action or a quick decision on a similar law out of another state, polling place Photo ID restrictions on voters will be allowed in the Badger State in 2016. That, despite the fact that the federal trial court found, when striking down the law as unconstitutional and a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act last year, that the new Republican-enacted law may serve to bar some 300,000 disproportionately Democratic-leaning and already lawfully registered voters from casting a ballot in the state's Presidential election.
There is also more than a bit of irony in this matter, in that, after U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman soundly rejected the law in 2014 --- finding that "evidence adduced at trial demonstrates" WI's Act 23 "disproportionately impacts Black and Latino voters" and that the law would "prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes" --- the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals deadlocked (disingenously) 5 to 5 on whether to stay the original ruling. That deadlock meant the stay would be granted and the WI law would be allowed, barring further court challenges, despite the fact that 6 federal judges had voted to strike down the law, while just 5 had voted in its favor. To make matters worse, Act 23 had also been struck down previously in state court as a violation of the state constitution as well. Nonetheless, in this matter, a minority of judges successfully ruled against the majority.
All of that, despite a blistering dissent filed in last year's 7th Circuit Court WI decision by against the law (and all such laws) from revered conservative 7th Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner. Posner's original ruling in favor of a Photo ID restriction law in Crawford v. Marion County, Indiana, was the basis of the first such case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, upholding Indiana's Photo ID law in 2008. So his unambiguous reversal on the issue, now that we know much more about such laws, was noteworthy and, opponents of the law had hoped, convincing to the Supremes who have, for many years, favorably cited the legal scholar's opinions.
Though the 7th Circuit's decision to temporarily stay the original ruling striking down the law was later vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court last year --- on the basis that the stay was made too close to the election --- the discriminatory law is now back in place in the state. The refusal by the Court to grant cert this weeks means that it will likely remain in place as the next Presidential election begins.
Some watching these matters closely, however, believe that Monday's decision by SCOTUS to not hear the Wisconsin case may ultimately be a good thing, perhaps "a blessing in disguise"...