The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By David G. Savage, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked Wisconsin from enforcing its strict voter identification law in this year’s election.

By a 6-3 vote, the justices granted an emergency appeal from civil rights lawyers who argued it was too late to put the rule into effect.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union had noted the state had already sent out thousands of absentee ballots without mentioning the need for voters to return a copy of the photo identification.

It would be “chaos,” they said, for the state now to have to decide whether or not to count such ballots because the voters failed to comply with the new law.

Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented. The six justices in the majority did not issue a written opinion to accompany the decision to lift an order by a lower court that would have allowed the law to take effect.

At nearly the same time, a federal judge in Texas struck down that state’s new voter ID law on the grounds that it violated the constitutional right to vote and discriminated against racial minorities.

Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott said the state would appeal the ruling.

The Wisconsin and Texas cases were the two most closely watched tests of new voter rules this year. In both states, the Republican-led legislatures sought to tighten the rules for voting and to require all registered voters who did not have a driver’s license to obtain a photo ID card at a state motor vehicles office.

Civil rights lawyers in Texas said more than 600,000 of its registered voters did not have the required identification.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican and a strong supporter of the voter ID rule, is locked in a tight race for re-election. Democrats feared the law would block some of their supporters from the polls, although the potential impact remains uncertain.

Wisconsin’s Legislature adopted the photo ID rule three years ago, but until last month the requirement had been put on hold by state and federal judges.

The issue has divided legislatures on partisan grounds, with Republicans solidly in support of the requirement and most Democrats opposing it. In the Wisconsin case, the issues divided judges along the same lines.

In April, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman, a Democratic appointee, blocked the voter ID rule from taking effect. He said more than 300,000 of Wisconsin’s registered voters — or 9 percent of the electorate — did not have a current driver’s license or U.S. passport that would allow them to cast a ballot.

Voters who were poor, elderly, black or Latino would more likely be affected by the new rule, he said. To obtain a voting card, these residents were told they must go to a state motor vehicles office and present their birth certificate.

On Sept. 12, a three-judge federal appeals court panel in Chicago lifted Adelman’s order and said Wisconsin could enforce the photo ID rule now. The judges on the panel, all of whom were Republican appointees, discounted the significance of the rule. Besides, they said, voters had had three years to get ready for it.

The full appeals court then split, 5-5, on whether to reconsider that decision.

Lawyers for the ACLU filed an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court. Their appeal argued that the election is too close to impose such a change in the voting rules.

Putting the requirement into place now “will sow confusion at the polls and suppress voting in the November 4 general election in Wisconsin,” they said. “Chaos in an election — especially when entirely preventable — is undemocratic.”

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, urged the justices to turn down the appeal. He said that “only a small percentage of voters still lack ID” and that “this focus on a small fraction of the electorate is not an adequate justification” to prevent enforcing the rule now.

Determining the impact that the rule might have had on the election is difficult. The number of people without photo IDs may be lower now than when Adelman issued his order. In addition, the turnout of poor and minority voters tends to drop disproportionately in midterm elections, so many of those who don’t have an ID might not have voted anyway.

The state’s leading public opinion survey, the Marquette University poll, found last week that just over 1 percent of registered voters in the state said they did not have a “currently valid photo ID such as a Wisconsin driver’s license, U.S. passport or military ID card,” but among likely voters, that share dropped to less than half a percent.

Photo: Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Donald Trump

Image via Twitter

A year after former President Donald Trump left the White House and Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States, Trump continues to have considerable influence in the Republican Party. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former Trump critic turned Trump sycophant, recently told Fox News that having a “working relationship” with Trump must be a litmus test for anyone in a GOP leadership role in Congress. But an NBC News poll, conducted in January 14-18, 2022, finds that many Republican voters identify as Republicans first and Trump supporters second.

Analyzing that poll in the New York Times on January 21, reporters Leah Askarinam and Blake Hounshell, explain, “Buried in a new survey published today is a fascinating nugget that suggests the Republican Party may not be as devoted to Trump as we’ve long assumed. Roughly every month for the last several years, pollsters for NBC News have asked: ‘Do you consider yourself to be more of a supporter of Donald Trump or more of a supporter of the Republican Party?’ Over most of that time, Republicans have replied that they saw themselves as Trump supporters first.”

Keep reading... Show less

Ivanka Trump, right

Image via @Huffington Post

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s select committee on the January 6, 2021 insurrection moves along, it is examining Ivanka Trump’s actions that day — especially the former White House senior adviser urging her father, then- President Donald Trump, to call off his supporters when the U.S. Capitol Building was under attack. This week, Ivanka Trump’s importance to the committee is examined in a column by liberal Washington Post opinion writer Greg Sargent and an article by blogger Marcy Wheeler.

Sargent notes that the committee’s “new focus on Ivanka Trump” shows that it “is developing an unexpectedly comprehensive picture of how inextricably linked the violence was to a genuine plot to thwart a legitimately elected government from taking power.”

Keep reading... Show less
{{ }}