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USCA7 Upholds Wisconsin Voter ID

Casting a vote while impersonating someone else is a crime.  We have to show ID all the time for a variety of other purposes in life, and showing one to vote is not a big deal.  No, it does not discriminate against the poor as long as the state makes it free to get one.  The Supreme Court upheld voter ID five years ago.

Yesterday, the Seventh Circuit upheld Wisconsin's voter ID law in Frank v. WalkerRick Hasen at Election Law Blog is apoplectic.  "Regardless of where you stand on the merits of the constitutional and voter id problem, it is unconscionable to roll out voter id without adequate time for everyone who wants to get id to do so."

Roll out?  The law was enacted three years ago.  It is being "rolled out" now only because it was wrongly enjoined for the three years since it was enacted.  Blame the late "roll out" on the plaintiffs and the district judge, if you're upset about it.  Should the plaintiffs be able to further delay the implementation of a valid law because they wrongly delayed it this long?

Voter ID is constitutional.  It is good policy.  Get used to it and quit whining.  In modern society everyone should have an ID in any case.  If you perceive a genuine problem, then direct your efforts to helping people get IDs.  Of course, if the real purpose is to facilitate fraud, then helping real people get valid IDs won't help, now will it?


I know many European countries (France immediately comes to mind) require their citizens to have ID on their person at all times. Would a law requiring every person to have picture ID be constitutional?

And slightly related side note, after reading this post I looked at my drivers license and realized it expired on my birthday last week, so I am off to the DMV now.....

That is true in some Asian countries as well. I doubt Americans would stand for it. We will never get a court decision on whether it is constitutional if no legislature ever enacts it.

Note that being a witness against yourself for the offense of driving with an expired license has not been compelled and therefore is not a Fifth Amendment violation. I'll confess also, but the statute of limitations has run.

Decency evolves: Good policy, or just a transparently political effort to lower the voting by poor people, minorities and young people more likely to vote againt conservatives? That is the effect, according to a recent GAO report:


And Mike Turzai, leader of the GOP in the Pennsylvania House, certainly thought such measures would benefit his party, chortling in 2012 that such laws would win the state for Romney:


Combined, as they so often are, with rollbacks on early voting and provisions designed to make registration of new and young voters much more difficult, the purpose is pretty transparent:



With an aging and shrinking demographic base and increasingly unpopular policies, the incentives to shrink the voting population are manifest. Good policy or pro-democracy it's not.

Decency evolves: One more point, voter impersonation fraud, which is what these laws are allegedly designed to combat, doesn't merit the enactment of measures that will almost surely disenfranchise a significant percentage of the population, especially among the poor, who lack identification, and quite often lack the financial means to obtain it. This study by NBC news illustrates the the problem such laws create and the lack of need for such laws:


Good policy. The effects on turnout are minimal -- low single digits.

The "barriers" to voting people are whining about today border on trivial. Some people are so lazy, spoiled, and demanding to be spoon-fed that they talk about simple requirements such as registering 30 days before the election as "vote suppression." Baloney.

And no, such a requirement does not discriminate against poor people, young people, or minorities. Thirty days is thirty days regardless of age, income, or race.

One could, of course, argue that these policies discriminate against people who are lazy, spoiled, and demanding to be spoon-fed, but these are not "suspect classifications," and I think most people would be okay with such "discrimination."

As for the poor lacking identification, my wife works in a clinic where nearly all the patients have their care paid by Medicaid. They have to show ID to register. They all have it.

Decency evolves: A number of courts disagree with you, and now the Supreme Court has stayed implementation of Wisconsin's law:


As one of the links I cited above noted, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation estimated that nine percent of the adult population in the state lacked photo identification. The monetary burden of getting such identification in order to vote on poor people who often lacked the funds for basic needs can be sufficient to act as a deterrent, just as the small poll taxes used in Southern states did before constitutional changes that made such taxes illegal--hence the ruling that Texas's voter ID law acted as an illegal poll task.

The poor, as Fitzgerald said of the rich, are not like you or me. I've represented enough of them for enough years to know. Good policy expands rather than contracting, the franchise and increases, rather than diminishing, the abysmal voter turnout rate in this country.

Oh my! A number of courts disagree with me!

Well, I guess I'll have to change to a position not disagreed with by a number of courts.

Except that isn't possible on this or any other hotly contested issue.

I have said more than once that my position is that any state requiring an ID to vote has to issue them for free.

Decency evolves: Is voter ID a good policy in a pretend world where every adult has an ID and they are all provided easily and free of charge, even to poor, elderly and foreign born people without easy access to birth certificates? Maybe, but that's not the world we live in. Here, voter ID measures are bundled with numerous other mechanisms designed to diminish voting. Is it any wonder the courts are striking them down? Before someone insists a measure is good policy, it's wisest to look at the details, where the Devils are.

Foreign-born U.S. citizens have a photo ID. It's called a naturalization certificate. (I'm married to one. I know the "details.") Noncitizens shouldn't be voting, so in addition to simply establishing identity, an ID requirement may further serve the goal of reducing fraudulent voting by ineligible voters.

A claim that voter ID discriminates against elderly people undercuts the claim that its purpose is to shape the electorate in favor of conservatives. The elderly tend to be more conservative than the overall population. I doubt there are many elderly people unable to establish their identity. After all, you have to establish it to get Medicare.

The poor don't have access to birth certificates? Why not? Because they cost a couple bucks? People who qualify as "poor" in America often have enough money for big screen TVs and $200 tennis shoes for the kids. Ask anyone in social services whose job involves home visits. Are there a handful of people who don't have IDs and can't scrape up a couple bucks for a copy of their a birth certificate? Possibly, but that does not seem to be an unmanageable problem. Social service agencies help people with things like that all the time. Again, the clinic where my wife works does it. Poor people need to establish their identity to get Medicaid. People get these issues taken care of with a little effort.

In modern society, everyone should be able to identify himself. The few who don't have IDs should get them for reasons independent of voting. It's not a major obstacle.

Your argument by personal anecdote is simply false and contradicts the record established in these cases, as reflected in Judge Posner's recent and very eloquent dissent from denial of rehearing en banc by a five-five vote in the Wisconsin voter ID case:


As Judge Posner documents, the number of potential voters without such ID is quite high--9% and the barriers to obtaining such ID can be substantial for the poor and the elderly. And the problem it seems to remedy, in person voting impersonation fraud is essentially nonexistent.

As for your worry expressed in another post that the Supreme Court's stay order in the Wisconsin case may cause the justifiably beleaguered Scott Walker to lose his election due to "the deceased" voting, rest easy. As Judge Posner observed:

"M.V. Hood III and William Gillespie, in their article 'They Just Do Not Vote Like They Used To:A Methodology to Empirically Assess Election Fraud,' 93 Social Sci. Q. 76 (2012), find that 'after examining approximately 2.1 million votes cast during the 2006 general election in Georgia, we find no evidence that election fraud was committed under the auspices of deceased registrants.' Co-author Hood was the State of Wisconsin’s expert witness in the present case— and testified that Georgia’s voter ID law indeed 'had the effect of suppressing turnout.'"

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