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Why voter ID rulings in Texas and Wisconsin may not apply here

It's not a done deal yet that a proposed state constitutional amendment requiring photo ID for voting will be on Minnesota's November ballot, but it seems more likely than un.

And yet, just this week, rulings have blocked voter photo ID laws from taking effect in Texas and our neighboring state of Wisconsin. But there are reasons to be skeptical that the Texas and Wisconsin matters would apply if Minnesota adopts photo ID. Why?

Republican-controlled legislatures around the country are passing voter photo ID requirements likes crazy. The partisan motives are obvious, but that doesn't mean the laws are unconstitutional. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 upheld, by a 6-3 ruling, a photo ID law from Indiana.

In Texas, the U.S. Department of Justice has blocked the enforcement of the new photo ID, and had earlier taken a similar action against voter ID in South Carolina. Both actions are under appeal to the courts. But the Justice Department action probably has no relevance to Minnesota because Justice acted under a provision of the 1965 voting rights which requires that jurisdictions that have a history of suppressing minority voting must show that any proposed change to voting rules would not have a disproportionate effect on minority voters.

Texas and South Carolina are among the jurisdictions with that history. Minnesota is not.

In Wisconsin, Republicans took advantage of their new all-Repub lineup to enact a voter ID law, but Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess struck the statute down before it could take effect. That action will also be appealed. But Niess's ruling would have little predictive power over the fate of the possible Minnesota amendment for at least two reasons.

Niess based his ruling on language in the Wisconsin Constitution. That language has no application in Minnesota and Minnesota Constitution does not seem to have comparable language.

(If you're curious, here's how that one goes: Article III of the Wisconsin Constitution states that "Every United States citizen age 18 or older who is a resident of an election district in this state is a qualified elector of that district." Niess says that the new law might prevent a U.S. citizen from voting, because he or she doesn't have a photo ID. The counterargument, of course, is that he or she could acquire a photo ID. Niess didn't buy that, but higher courts might.)

On top of that, the Wisconsin voter ID law is a mere statute. If the voter ID passes in Minnesota in November, the new requirement would become part of the state constitution itself, which would certainly make it harder for state courts to strike it down as unconstitutional.

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Comments (9)

I'd say they're comparable

Wisconsin Constitution, Article III: “Every United States citizen age 18 or older who is a resident of an election district in this state is a qualified elector of that district.”

Minnesota Constitution, Article VII: “Every person 18 years of age or more who has been a citizen of the United States for three months and who has resided in the precinct for 30 days next preceding an election shall be entitled to vote in that precinct.”

While not identical, certainly, I’d say the language is comparable, and the issue raised by Judge Niess (as well as the counterargument) seems equally applicable. And, of course, any differences of opinion over just what either one of the articles in question actually *means* provide bread, butter and BMW payments to attorneys.

Perhaps the most relevant point is Eric’s final paragraph. Statutes get changed all the time. That’s why the ALEC crowd want to put this into the state constitution. To change the state constitution would require either another statewide election, or someone with deep pockets would have to take the case to the federal courts.

No Guts, No Glory

"A government that undermines the very foundation of its existence — the people's inherent, pre-constitutional right to vote — imperils its legitimacy as a government by the people, for the people, and especially of the people," Niess wrote. He said the disenfranchised would have included "struggling souls" who are constitutionally entitled to vote but lack the resources to comply with the law.

Let's hope our courts have the guts to do the same. Just remember:

18% of elderly citizens do not have a government-issued photo ID
15% of voters earning less than $35,000 a year do not have a photo ID
18% of citizens 18-24 do not have a government-issued ID with their current address and name
10% of voters with disabilities do not have a photo ID
25% of African-American citizens of voting age do not have a current, government-issued ID
0.0009% of votes may involve voter fraud

Need I say more.

0.0009% of votes may involve voter fraud

And for that definitive statement we have what proof?

Good point

It may well be less.

Not so fast

It may be ten times that! Which would make it 0.009%. So... uh... there.

Check 2008

Since Mr. Swift would have us believe he needed proof, I searched "voter fraud" on the MinnPost website, and came across an article from the Mankato paper, with several comments.

According to commenter Myles Spicer, “The catalyst for all this ID fuss was likely the 2008 election. as a reminder, there WERE 113 probably [sic] cases of ineligible voters (not necessarily fraud) -- out of 2.9 MILLION votes cast. This whole issue is again a solution in search of a problem.”

I wasn't in Minnesota in 2008, but my $10 calculator says that's 0.0000389%. I've no idea where to go to check Mr. Spicer's information, nor do I pretend to a definitive judgment regarding the veracity of Mr. Spicer himself, but it might be useful to note that Mr. Swift's response was not to the data Mr. Spicer presented, nor did Mr. Swift provide better or more accurate data.

Instead, he wrote “How many votes did Al Franken "win" by?”

That response was on March 9, so Mr. Swift has encountered this information recently enough that a cogent response would serve his cause better. As it stands, I can only conclude that, once again, Mr. Swift is resorting to "When the facts aren't in your favor, change the subject or call your opponent names.”

And by the way, Mr. Franken's margin of victory was 312 votes…

A website that might interest you . . . . .

is (Citizens for Election Integrity - and please don't let the name scare you!)

There's lots of good information there.

A crucial point overlooked.

A salient point Eric overlooked is that Judge Richard Niess was appointed in 2004 by then Democratic Gov. James Doyle. This was simply another political ruling by a judge. Happens all the time.

I think it could be disallowed here as well

Benjamin Jealous and others from the NAACP traveled to Geneva this week to ask the UN's Human Rights division to study the impact of the various voter i.d. measures on the basic civil rights of US citizens under international law. The 14th Amendment would also seem to apply.

The McClatchy article referemced be;pw cites a Brennan Institute for Justice report estimating at 5 million the total number of American voters that would be disenfranchised if all states adopted the anti-democracy voter i.d. bill.

This bill is just another piece of the corporate paradise (2-tiered society) envisioned by the ALEC/Koch Brothers/National Chamber of Commerce/corporate-friendly-state-lawmakers coalition.

There seems to be no coverage except for articles by William Douglas of McClatchy( and The Guardian (