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...
As The BRAD BLOG previously observed, in covering the ACLU’s emergency petition to the Supreme Court, and the well-reasoned opinion of the five dissenting judges on the evenly divided 7th Circuit Court of Appeal, this case entailed a watershed moment for both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Would the two Justices adhere to principles they themselves signed onto in a landmark 2008 polling place photo ID case in Indiana (Crawford v. Marion County), or would they abandon principle in favor of a concerted partisan effort to help rig the outcome of an election by way of a law that would, sans any lawful reason and based upon blatant falsehoods put forth by the 7th Circuit Court, disproportionately disenfranchise wide swaths of the electorate from demographic groups which historically lean towards Democratic candidates.
We specifically warned that "an unscrupulous decision by the Court…could well mark a giant step towards converting our supposedly constitutionally-protected, representative democracy into an oligarchy."
While an ultimate decision on the merits of the case will have to await a decision on an anticipated ACLU petition for a writ of certiorari, with Roberts and Kennedy having joined Justices Breyer, Kagan, Ginsberg and Sotomayor, in granting the ACLU’s emergency petition, both Justices did more than simply adhere to principle. They may well have rescued our representative form of democracy, for now, from an oligarchic assault.
The SCOTUS dissenters in the case were Justices Thomas, Scalia and Alito, all Republican appointees to the Court.
The ball, for now, has been passed back to voters themselves in Wisconsin. Citizens who value representative democracy would understandably be angry at their representatives for attempting to strip a a precious right that so many have fought and died for over the years. That right was very nearly lost in this roller coaster of a court battle in response to the now-blocked GOP law. Irrespective of Party, voters, especially in Wisconsin, need to decide whether they will exercise that precious right, and, if so, whether the vote they cast should send a clear message to those who sought to deprive them of that right in the first place.
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)