The same U.S. 7th Circuit Appeals Court panel that, in 2014, opened the door to mass disenfranchisement via Wisconsin's strict GOP-enacted Photo ID voting law ("Act 23"), has now issued a decision that could, in many instances, lead to the reinstatement of the precious right of citizens to cast votes.
Specifically, the panel determined in a ruling issued last week, Wisconsin's strict photo ID restrictions may not be used to disenfranchise any voter who lacks the ability "to obtain a qualifying photo ID with reasonable effort." The appellate court has remanded the matter back to the trial court so that the District Court Judge who heard the original case can determine how to best fashion a remedy that could keep many otherwise legal and often long-time voters from being turned away again at the ballot box.
The new ruling in the Frank v. Walker case comes too late for approximately 300,000 disproportionately minority and poor voters (nearly 10% of the Badger State electorate), who may have been disenfranchised during the state's recent April 5th primary election. It is difficult yet to ascertain the precise effect the polling place Photo ID restriction had in either the Republican or Democratic Presidential primaries that day, but the restrictions had the potential to alter the outcome of those races as well as a Wisconsin Supreme Court contest. The Scott Walker-supported Republican, Rebecca Bradley, reportedly defeated independent jurist JoAnne Kloppenburg by approximately 95,000 votes. The highly controversial Bradley was thus elected to serve out a 10-year term on the Badger State's highest court after being appointed by Walker to fill a vacancy last year.
As ordered by the federal appellate court, U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman may now provide a remedy for those whom ACLU attorney Sean Young described as the "most impacted" by Wisconsin's polling place Photo ID restrictions. The likely remedy was outlined by the 5th Circuit panel, which noted that the new decision was intended to bring Wisconsin's law in line with Indiana law where a voter "who contends he has been unable to obtain a complying photo ID for financial or religious reasons may file an affidavit to that effect and have his vote provisionally counted."
The court ruled the restriction on voting should not be applied to three classifications of voters for whom the plaintiffs had sought relief:
Had such a remedy been in place before the state's recent primary, voters like Eddie Lee Holloway, a 58-year-old African-American man who moved from Illinois to Wisconsin in 2008 and voted without problem there until the WI GOP's Act 23 was instituted, might not have been disenfranchised at all. Holloway, despite owning at least three different forms of ID, including his expired Illinois photo ID, birth certificate and Social Security card, was unable to obtain the required Photo ID to vote in WI, as The Nation's Ari Berman documented last week. "He’d spent $200, visited two states, and made seven trips to different public institutions" in his effort to get an ID to vote, "but still couldn’t vote in Wisconsin," Berman reported, in yet another now-all-too-common tale of longtime voters facing absurd new obstacles simply trying to cast a vote in the wake of such new voting restrictions.
But Holloway was hardly alone...