The plaintiffs in One Wisconsin Institute v. Thomsen, one of several long-running court challenges to Wisconsin Republicans' strict Photo ID voting restriction, have filed an emergency petition with the full en banc U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeal, asking that it overturn its previous photo ID decision in Frank v. Walker.
The still pending Frank case as well as the One Wisconsin challenge have, to say the least, undergone a circuitous recent history in a number of federal courts that oversee Badger State election law.
In April 2014, after a lengthy trial, U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman struck down and permanently enjoined Wisconsin's photo ID law after finding it in violation of both the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well as the Voting Rights Act (VRA).
Republicans in control of the state naturally appealed that detailed and blistering ruling. The federal appeal was assigned to an all-Republican three-judge 7th Circuit panel, headed by Judge Frank H. Easterbrook. Easterbrook is a member of the radical right wing Robert Bork-founded, Koch Brothers-funded "Federalist Society". The ensuing decision to reinstate Wisconsin's photo ID law, despite Adelman's meticulous ruling in the lower court, was so extraordinarily partisan, factually deficient, riddled with errors and legally flawed that it prompted the ordinarily staid U.C. Irvine election law Prof. Rick Hasen to tweet: "I rarely just rant in my blog posts. But Judge Easterbrook caused me to blow a gasket."
Other members of the 7th Circuit were so troubled by Easterbrook's flawed opinion that they took the unusual move of granting a rehearing en banc on their own motion. Because of prior refusals by Congressional Republicans to fill a vacancy on the 7th Circuit with an Obama nominee, at that time of the court's motion there were only ten (10) jurists serving on the full 7th Circuit --- as opposed to the allotted eleven (11) judges. The ensuing 5-5 en banc ruling --- now referred to as Frank I --- left Easterbrook's horribly flawed ruling in place, effectively disenfranchising nearly 10% of Wisconsin's electorate who did not possess or have easy access to the very specific types of Photo ID now required by state Republicans to cast a vote. .
Last April, however, after a disastrous Presidential primary in Wisconsin, where, most visibly, student voters were forced into hours long lines on Election Day in hopes of obtaining a state approved photo ID that would allow them to vote under the GOP law, the Easterbrook panel handed down a decision that appeared designed to ameliorate the widespread disenfranchisement. The ruling --- now referred to as Frank II --- suggested that disenfranchised voters who lack the ability "to obtain a qualifying photo ID with reasonable effort" should be permitted to cast a regular ballot nonetheless.
On July 19, 2016, in what was thought to be compliant with the Frank II directive, the District Court issued a remedial injunction that mandated Wisconsin afford the right to cast a regular ballot to "those who cannot with reasonable effort obtain a qualifying ID", so long as they signed an affidavit to that effect at the polling place. Many, like The Nation's Ari Berman, celebrated, believing that the voting rights of Wisconsin's disenfranchised electorate had finally been restored.
That celebration, it now appears, proved both premature and an underestimate of the level partisan duplicity on the part of the three "radicals in robes" on the Easterbrook 7th Circuit panel...