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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"...
As we find ourselves smack dab on the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama, there are some key decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court, coming very soon, which may well determine whether millions of otherwise lawfully registered and disproportionately Democratic-leaning African-American and Hispanic voters will be prevented from voting in the 2016 elections.
The decision that emerges from the Supreme Court's March 20, 2015 Conference in the Wisconsin polling place photo ID case, Frank v. Walker, could well be dispositive in that regard. It also may be the last chance to avoid the legal chaos that plagued the 2014 elections, during which similar voting restrictions, in state-after-state, were implemented, struck down, restored, or, with respect to Wisconsin, blocked again. Where, last year, the Court's eleventh hour decisions preserved the right to vote in Wisconsin, that same Supreme Court, on the eve of the 2014 mid-term, eliminated the right to vote for hundreds of thousands of predominantly African-American and Hispanic voters in Texas and North Carolina. The failure of the Supreme Court to take up the issue now could produce an even darker cloud of doubt over the integrity and legitimacy of the 2016 Presidential Election.
The immediate issue now before the Court is not whether SCOTUS agrees with a U.S. District Court judge and half the judges on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeal that WI's law (aka Act 23) is both unconstitutional and violative of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. As those judge found, Act 23, if implemented in the Badger State, could disenfranchise more than 300,000 lawfully registered Wisconsin voters.
Rather, the immediate issue at the March 20 Conference is whether the Supremes will grant an ACLU petition for a writ of certiorari (aka "cert petition") and schedule oral arguments on the Constitutionality of the Republican-enacted law. Or whether, as urged by the attorneys representing WI's Republican Governor Scott Walker, the Court will defer its decision until similar legal challenges to strict photo ID laws in other states, such as North Carolina and Texas, wind their way through the trial and appellate courts.
In other words, do they hear the Wisconsin case now, as urged by the ACLU and other voting rights advocates? Or do they wait to combine the matter with several other challenges to substantively identical voting restrictions implemented by Republicans in other states, as urged by one of the men who stands to benefit from delaying such a decision as long as possible?
That decision whether to hear the case now, rather than later, may well have a huge impact on who will serve as the next President of the United States...
With Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, incredibly enough, having vaulted to the front of the GOP pack of 2016 Presidential hopefuls in Iowa and a number of other states, he'll undoubtedly (or, at least, hopefully) come under much more scrutiny on a national level for the kind of policies he's been carrying out back home. (And, additionally, as Brendan Fischer explains, "Rumors of the Walker [John Doe] Probe's Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated")
One aspect of those policies was noticed by Jonas Persson and Mary Bottari at the Center for Media and Democracy's PRWatch this week. It seems Walker, without publicly mentioning it during a recent speech on his newly proposed state budget, included $300 million in cuts to the University of Wisconsin (UW) System along with some other troubling changes.
"The unprecedented cut, which amounts to 13 percent of the state funding for the university system and 2.5 percent of the total budget, accompanied by a tuition freeze will result in the defunding of scores of departments and jeopardize the livelihood of faculty and graduate students," PRWatch reports. The cuts come on the heels of Walker's tax breaks for the wealthy and cuts to social services which have left Wisconsin "32nd in the nation in new job growth," while "the state faces a $2.2 billion dollar deficit." Not helpful numbers when running for President (at least in a general, versus primary, election.)
"In a grim irony, the cut also comes amid reports that other states in the Midwest, such as Minnesota (which recently reported a $1.04 billion budget surplus), Indiana, Iowa and Ohio, are ramping up funding for its state universities, the Wisconsin State Journal reports."
PRWatch adds that, under Walker's proposed new structure for the UW System, "The Board of Regents appointed by the governor would be the governing body and the legislature and the public would have less of a role in protecting academic freedom and other statutory rights."
As much as some are alarmed by the restructuring and massive budget cuts to state education, a rather striking change to the UW System's written mission statement in the budget proposal has left some "nearly speechless", setting off arguably more controversy about what Walker, after being called on it, initially described as little more than "a drafting error"...
- with Brad Friedman
[An earlier version of this article was originally published by Truthout...]
Both election integrity advocates and dissembling GOP proponents of Photo ID voting restrictions were taken by surprise in late 2013 when 7th Circuit Court Judge Richard A. Posner said, during an interview with HuffPo Live, that the landmark 2008 Supreme Court decision on the matter "would have been decided differently" if the Court had known then "about the abuse of voter identification laws."
That, in and of itself, was a remarkable turn of events. What was ultimately to come was even more so.
Crawford v. Marion County Election Board is the case which Republican proponents of strict Photo ID voting laws now (incorrectly and often disingenuously) cite as giving them carte blanche to enact similar laws in other states, irrespective of the extent to which photo ID laws serve to disenfranchise demographic groups --- minorities, students, the poor, women --- that all tend to vote for Democrats.
Posner is not just any judge. He is a renowned legal scholar and Reagan appointee to the federal bench, who has served on the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeal since 1981. More importantly here, Posner was the author of the 7th Circuit's opinion in Crawford. In that case, Posner rejected an allegation that Indiana's polling place photo ID restriction was unconstitutional. That decision was affirmed at the time by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Posner, who is, as Yale Law Professor Fred Shapiro notes, the most cited jurist of the 20th Century, was not alone in his view in 2013 year that Crawford "would have been decided differently" if the Court knew then what it knows now.
Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the author of the plurality opinion in Crawford --- an opinion that was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy --- told the Wall Street Journal following Posner's remarks at the time, that he "always thought that [dissenting Justice] David Souter got the thing correct, but my own problem with the case was that I didn't think the record [before the Court in 2008] supported everything he said in his opinion." Souter would have struck down the Indiana law as unconstitutional because, as he argued at the time, it "threatens to impose nontrivial burdens" upon the right to vote.
Joined by four other 7th Circuit jurists last October, Posner penned an extraordinarily powerful and compelling dissent [PDF] in Wisconsin's photo ID voting case. The previously missing evidence is now in, as the judge meticulously detailed in the opinion. GOP claims that photo ID restrictions are needed to combat "voter fraud", he wrote, are "a mere fig leaf for efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote for the political party that does not control the state government"...
Posner's carefully crafted dissent does more than establish why the U.S. Supreme Court should ultimately sustain the District Court's finding that Wisconsin's photo ID law is both unconstitutional and a violation of the Voting Rights Act --- a finding later echoed by a federal District Court in Texas as well. Posner's dissent obliterates the factual premise that had served as a pillar upon which his, and subsequently the Supreme Court's, decisions in Crawford were based.
Polling place photo ID laws do not promote voter confidence in the integrity of elections, as Posner and the Crawford Supreme Court plurality had erroneously assumed. The assertion that they do was a "mistake" --- Posner's mistake! --- and he now admits as much, with the support of devastating new data from recent studies to back him up.
His powerful dissent amounts to more than just a response to the Wisconsin GOP's new Photo ID voting law. It is an elegant plea that the U.S. Supreme Court finally right a grievous wrong that he was personally responsible for. Posner presents an astonishing, air-tight case for ruling that all "strict Photo ID laws," which, as he demonstrates, have only been enacted in states sporting GOP-controlled legislatures, must now be struck-down as unconstitutional...
On the stump this week for Republican candidates, NJ's Gov. Chris Christie said GOP governors need to win this year, so they can be in control of the "voting mechanisms" during what he believes might be his own run for President in 2016. He cited three races in particular, in three states that would be crucial to him as the GOP nominee, as reported by New Jersey's The Record...
Republican governors are facing intense fights in the courts over laws they pushed that require specific identification in order to vote and that reduce early voting opportunities. Critics say those laws sharply curtail the numbers of poor and minority voters, who would likely vote for Democrats. Christie - who vetoed a bill to extend early voting in New Jersey - is campaigning for many of those governors now as he considers a run for president in 2016.
Christie stressed the need to keep Republicans in charge of states - and overseeing state-level voting regulations - ahead of the next presidential election.
"Would you rather have Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism, or Charlie Crist? Would you rather have Scott Walker in Wisconsin overseeing the voting mechanism, or would you rather have Mary Burke? Who would you rather have in Ohio, John Kasich or Ed FitzGerald?" he asked.
Great questions, Governor Christie! Let's take a crack at offering some answers for ya...
Hopefully you've read the amazing opinion offered by the conservative, Reagan-appointed appellate court Judge Richard Posner by now, absolutely demolishing both Wisconsin's Republican-enacted Photo ID voting law, and pretty much all others --- including the first-in-the-nation such law in Indiana that Posner himself was responsible for upholding back in 2008!
If not, go read it and then come back. It's that good and that important. Either way, we may have a bit more to say about it in the near future, as it's an absolutely landmark opinion on this issue --- one that we've been covering at The BRAD BLOG for more than a decade now --- even as a dissent.
But there's one fairly amazing sidebar to all of this, at least to me, that I've been meaning to note here --- if only because it seems so bizarre...
In a late 6 to 3 ruling, just weeks before Election Day, and coming just minutes after the release of very good news in regard to a similar law in Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court has now blocked Wisconsin's Photo ID voting law for this November's election.
A 1-page order [PDF] vacates a 7th Circuit Court of Appeals stay of the U.S. District Court’s permanent injunction that had, until blocked by the Appeals court, prevented Wisconsin from enforcing its Republican-enacted photo ID law.
SCOTUS has now restored the right of some 300,000 duly registered Badger State voters to take part in the November 4, 2014 election. Many of those lawfully registered voters would have lost that right, simply because they lacked a narrow form of a state-approved photo ID.
According to the District Court Judge Lynn Adelman's April ruling after the trial, it was "absolutely clear," based on evidence and expert testimony, that Wisconsin's law would have "prevent[ed] more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes."
Thursday's SCOTUS order is likely to come as a disappointment to WI's Republican Gov. Scott Walker who has regarded the Photo ID law as a top priority in advance of his "toss up" re-election contest against Democratic challenger Mary Burke. Though 300,000 registered voters --- 10% of the electorate in WI --- might have been disenfranchised by the law, but for tonight's ruling by the Supremes, Walker was named the winner of his initial 2010 election by just under 125,000 votes...
If you didn't make it through our detailed rant on how factually wrong, from top to bottom, rightwing Judge Frank Easterbrook of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeal was in his "horrendous" ruling on Wisconsin's GOP Photo ID voting law (now pending an emergency ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court), the ACLU focused in a press release on the same thing we did --- but in a much shorter version.
Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project, said in a statement issued after the ruling: "Permitting this law to go into effect so close to the election is fueling voter confusion and election chaos in Wisconsin, particularly for the many voters who have already cast their ballots. Voters deserve a fair shake, and this last-minute disruption changes the rules of the game in an election that is already underway, and risks locking out thousands of voters."
Then, the ACLU offered this pithy bullet point --- which summarizes our long article (taking apart each of these false claims one by one) --- to underscore the "factual inaccuracies in the appeals panel's ruling":
Yup. More than 300,000 registered voters in the state --- nearly 10% of the registered electorate --- as determined during the full trial on the merits of the case in the U.S. District Court. That trial resulted in the law being struck down as both unconstitutional and in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.
And, remember, Republican Governor Scott Walker, who is in a "toss up" re-election contest against Democratic challenger Mary Burke this year, was named the winner of his original 2010 election by just 124,638 votes. That margin is less than half of the number of legally registered voters in the state who are now unlikely to be able to cast a vote at all in this year's election, unless SCOTUS tosses out the ridiculous, falsehood-riddled ruling of the 7th Circuit.
Nice to have friends in high places who are willing to just make shit up though, eh Governor?
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
KPFK/Pacifica Radio is on fund drive of late, but with all the breaking election news this week, I couldn't stand to not do a fresh BradCast for my syndicated network affiliates who deserve better than a "Best Of" on a week like this one, as Election Day draws near.
So, since it appears this year's election is likely to be decided in the courts, before we even get to Election Day, here's our non-KPFK "Special Election Coverage Edition" for the affiliates and for you, as produced here at The BRAD BLOG World News Headquarters, rather than at the radio station as it is usually done.
No guests, no callers, just me, lots of information and rants, and an occasionally thought or question from my producer Desi Doyen. Given all of that, and the news this week and last (particularly from SCOTUS), the result may be somewhere between a radio broadcast and a primal scream. But many of my shows seem to amount to that these days.
We covered, among other things, the new GAO report confirming Photo ID voting restrictions depress turnout of African-American and younger voters; SCOTUS overturning appellate courts to allow GOP voter suppression laws in NC and in OH, with a decision on WI's voter suppression law not far behind (thanks to the federal judge who lied about it); Federal court striking down VA's gerrymandered Congressional map (for now); the GOP Attorney General candidate in AR caught committing voter fraud and, a lot of unusually good (and very welcome!) news in our latest Green News Report!
Buckle up, and enjoy! (And please consider donating below to our efforts! Your help is very much needed right now!)
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(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
Late on Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed [PDF] the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that had blocked two elements of North Carolina's massive new voter suppression law. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented in an opinion joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
"The order isn't a permanent reversal," notes election law expert Justin Levitt, "it's a stay awaiting the disposition of a petition for certiorari, if one is filed. But it's enough to put the state's law back in effect this November."
"The nation's worst voter suppression law since the Jim Crow era," as we described the law when state Republicans enacted it within hours after SCOTUS had gutted a key portion of the Voting Rights Act, will now be in full effect for this year's November general election, despite having been shown to have disenfranchised hundreds of voters during the state's primary earlier this year. There was no debate or time allowed for public comment before the law --- which shortens early voting hours, ends same-day registration, implements disenfranchising polling place Photo ID restrictions (in 2016) and much more --- was passed by the GOP-majority in the NC legislature last year.
Barring a further hearing by the Court, their response to NC's emergency appeal reverses the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling that had restored both same-day registration and the counting of provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct. All of the law's other provisions had already been approved for use this year by a George W. Bush-appointed U.S. District Court judge last month, pending a full trial on the merits of the law scheduled for next summer....
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...
With just weeks to go before mid-term elections and a "too close to call" Gubernatorial contest, disenfranchisement and electoral chaos in Scott Walker's Wisconsin reign supreme. And only the U.S. Supreme Court may now be able to do anything about it.
In a 5 to 5 ruling, an evenly divided, en banc U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeal has issued a Cursory Order [PDF], summarily denying an ACLU Petition for an Emergency Rehearing to put the brakes back on the state Republicans' Photo ID voting restriction in advance of the November election.
The ACLU petition followed on the recent extraordinary ruling by three Republican appointees to the federal bench that had vacated a permanent federal court injunction of the law. That injunction, until it was lifted by the three-judge 7th Circuit panel just weeks ago, prevented Wisconsin from enforcing a Photo ID voting law which a U.S. District Court judge had found would likely result in the disenfranchisement of up to 300,000 perfectly lawful registered voters who lack the now-requisite, state approved photo IDs.
As we recently reported, the ACLU, in its emergency petition, argued that it will be virtually impossible for the Badger state's Department of Motor Vehicles to process the number of official state photo IDs that would be required to insure that every lawfully registered voter who desires to vote would get the opportunity to vote in the upcoming Nov. 4 election. Moreover, thousands of absentee ballots that had already been mailed prior to the 7th Circuit panel's lifting of the injunction may not be counted since they did not include notice of the new rules requiring that they must be accompanied with copy of the voter's photo ID.
Following the 5 to 5 decision of the full 7th Circuit (one seat remains vacant, more on that below), the ACLU and other plaintiffs' only recourse for now will be an emergency petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. Given the deadlock by the 7th Circuit and reasoning applied not only by the original U.S. District Court Judge in this case, and also by a 6th Circuit panel in an Ohio early voting case, as well as by six (6) of the (9) U.S. Supreme Court Justices who took part in a landmark 2008 Photo ID decision --- all decisions which were inconsistent with the reasoning applied by the three-judge 7th Circuit panel in the Wisconsin case, which has now been essentially upheld --- a challenge at the U.S. Supreme Court has at least a reasonable prospect of success.
If you're confused, read on. We'll help you make sense of this...
• Latest developments in the case of Alabama's wife-beating, lifetime-appointed, Republican U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller (pictured above on left): Calls for accountability gain traction, CREDO posts petition for impeachment, horrifying 911 audio and disturbing 2012 documents concerning domestic abuse of previous wife (and children!)
• Bizarre twist in the 2012 GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal: Yet another arrest, and Nathan Sproul (pictured above on right), the highly-place, now-discredited GOP operative who headed up the firm at the center of the scandal, threatens The BRAD BLOG with legal action after our 2012 reporting was confirmed by a two-year Florida law enforcement investigation!
• Also, a hint as to why we were excused from jury duty last week; why we don't cover "O, Mighty ISIS"; breaking news in a longtime Scott Walker (R-WI) recall investigation; and his supporters now threatening Democratic voters; and, as usual, Desi Doyen with the latest Green News Report on Climate Week 2014...
Download MP3 or listen online below...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
Working on an unrelated in-depth story at the moment, hopefully for publication tomorrow. So, in the meantime, please see this report from TPM about disturbing allegations (yet again) of Scott Walker supporters' plans for intimidation of Democratic voters in Wisconsin...
The "Wisconsin Poll Watcher Militia" will check the names of those on the petition and will then seek out the Democrats on that list, according to Facebook exchanges viewed by Politicus USA.
— Meg Gorski (@MegGorski) September 18, 2014
The Facebook page for the militia has since been scrubbed.
The group plans to follow people from polling locations to their homes, according to a Facebook post viewed by The Capital Times.
"Please private message us names of people you know are active voters and wanted on warrants. We can get our agents to watch their polling location, identify the individual, and then follow them to their residence. A call the police and they will be picked up for processing," the Facebook message read.
Back in 2011 and 2012, some Walker supporters had violently assaulted those attempting to collect recall signatures; were caught planning to destroy recall petitions; were arrested and charged for actually doing so; were said to have made overnight death threats by telephone to supporters of the Recall Walker effort, among other attempts at voter intimidation.
Walker is up for re-election in November and his race with Democratic challenger Mary Burke is currently characterized by Real Clear Politics' polling average as a "toss-up".
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