Supreme Court stays Wisconsin voter-ID law

posted at 1:43 am on October 10, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

A late night surprise, and not just for Wisconsin but also for three of the justices. The stay, issued after an appeals court had told Wisconsin a few weeks ago to use the law in an upcoming election, overrules at least temporarily a unanimous decision by the appellate court that had followed the Supreme Court’s ruling for Indiana in its judgment:

The Supreme Court on Thursday night blocked Wisconsin from implementing its new voter identification law on the eve of next month’s elections. …

The Supreme Court’s order reverses a trend established by the justices in two other cases from Ohio and North Carolina, in which they allowed voting restrictions imposed by Republican legislatures to take effect.

That prompted three of the court’s conservative justices to issue a dissent objecting to the court’s intervention without finding any error in the appellate court’s reasoning:

The court gave no reason for its action, as is routine for such emergency orders. But Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented, arguing that the court cannot block an appeals court ruling unless the lower court “clearly and demonstrably erred in its application of accepted standards.”

Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSBlog thinks that the issue may not be the ruling — which again relied on the Supreme Court’s decision regarding Indiana’s identical voter-ID law — but the timing. With an election just a few weeks away, the issue of confusing voters and elections judges may have created enough concern that the court decided to intervene temporarily. Thanks to early voting, there may have been an equal-treatment issue as well:

Over a mild protest by three Justices, the Supreme Court on Thursday night barred Wisconsin from enforcing a requirement that voters must produce a photo identification before voting, by absentee ballot or in person.  The Court majority’s one-paragraph order gave no reason, but the fact that this year’s election is less than a month away may have been the key factor.

The Wisconsin law, challenged by civil rights and citizens’ advocacy groups, was described by them as “one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country.”  It would require voters to show one of only nine specific forms of identification to cast a ballot.  Apparently, thousands of Wisconsin voters have already cast ballots without producing the kind of ID required, and tens of thousands reportedly do not have the right kind of ID.  November 4 is the general election day this year.

This likely kills any chance for Wisconsin to implement the law before the midterm elections in four weeks. The state would have to ask for an emergency hearing, and then for rapid action from the court in order to get the law approved for use in time for Election Day. With four judges ready to stop it now and only three formally objecting, that’s longer odds than Bernie Sanders has of getting the Democratic nomination in 2016. Or the Republican nomination, for that matter.

Both the timing and the equal-protection concerns evaporate after the election, though. With the law modeled on Indiana (and the state’s ID issuance policy now in line with Indiana as well), the likely outcome of this case will be the same, too. If Democrats take control of Wisconsin state government in November, though, expect this to be one of the first laws that gets repealed.

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Comment pages: 1 2 3

Except for the part where it’s a documented fact.

Tlaloc on October 10, 2014 at 8:28 PM

Except that it’s not.

Star Bird on October 11, 2014 at 9:35 AM

The most interesting aspect of all of this, is that since we know that academic predictive fantasy contrasts with actual reality, it would seem that it’s the left that is actively trying to suppress the minority vote, since it has been proven that Voter ID laws increase minority voter turnout.

But then this shouldn’t be a surprise, as the left has a long and storied history of oppressing minorities.

Star Bird on October 11, 2014 at 10:11 AM

Pattern here:
1. Conservatives work hard to pass laws like Voter ID, Defense of Marriage, and School Choice.
2. Judges nullify all that hard work and substitute their personal policy preferences for the will of the people, fairly influenced to decide the very matter questioned with the other side having the right and ability to stop it at the voters box and they lose.
3. Not only do the judges reverse the vote but they actually make it impossible to be a citizen by criminalizing the position of what the people voted for to be expressed in any way and invalidate any kind of religious liberty exemption period.
4. So what do we have in common now to be citizens of the same country when our views are vilified and the will of the people is ignored?
5. I am really sick of it, it means I can no longer be a Good American Citizen because my views are illegal.

timoric on October 12, 2014 at 7:46 PM

6. So on the one hand the government should bend over backwards to allow citizens who don’t bother to get a photo ID the right to vote not even taking rudimentary steps to exercise basic civic responsibility and on the other hand, villify and undermine with no care in the world to the chilling effect of judge nullification on the participation rate and quality of representation afforded to the citizens that sacrifice their time and treasure and do the hard work of getting things put on ballots, influencing fellow-citizens to vote their way in…gasp…elections.

timoric on October 12, 2014 at 7:59 PM

Happy Democrat lawyers booking flights to Wisconsin even as this is being read.

applebutter on October 13, 2014 at 12:21 AM

The Supreme Dictatorship … eh … pardon me … the Supreme Court strikes again. (No offense to the conservatives on the Court.)


woodcdi on October 14, 2014 at 11:26 AM

Comment pages: 1 2 3