Voter ID Ruling Latest Example of Judicial Overreach
By Senator Devin LeMahieu
Wisconsin’s voter ID law was passed in 2011. Yet voters have had to show their IDs at the polls only three times since its enactment. Why? Activist judges continue to do whatever they can to stall voter ID’s implementation. Unfortunately this judicial trend is becoming all too common. When judges put politics before principle, democracy suffers.
Last month Judge Lynn Adelman, the same judge who has stalled the Highway 23 expansion, ruled that voters without a photo ID can vote if they sign an affidavit swearing they were unable to obtain an ID. Adelman’s decision was quickly and unanimously halted by the 7th District Court of Appeals. The court stated Adelman’s decision was likely to be overturned in its appeal and that he, “has not attempted to distinguish genuine difficulties… or any other variety of substantial obstacle to voting.” It’s clear that Adelman, a former Democratic state senator who was appointed to his judicial seat by President Bill Clinton, is unable to cast aside his partisan past while serving the federal court.
In the wake of Adelman’s voter ID ruling, Judge James Peterson, an Obama appointee, issued another federal ruling against voter ID and other Wisconsin election laws. His ruling shortens the residency requirement from 28 to 10 days, allows for expired student IDs, eliminates a dorm list that proves if students are US citizens, and permits weekend early voting. Statewide early voting standards were created because voters in small municipalities don’t have the same opportunities to vote on weekends like Madison and Milwaukee.
Adelman’s and Peterson’s rulings fly in the face of the US Supreme Court’s previous decisions on voter ID. In fact a vast majority of states, 34, have a voter ID law in place and the US Supreme Court has confirmed its legality. Just last year, the SCOTUS refused to hear a challenge to Wisconsin’s specific voter ID law- maintaining it was constitutional.
The timing of each of these rulings are also concerning. Adelman’s Highway 23 ruling came on a Friday evening, with construction set to begin after the weekend. Not only did his decision further delay much needed safety improvements to the highway, but by waiting until the last minute, Adelman cost the state unnecessary planning costs. Similarly Judge Peterson issued his voter ID ruling less than two weeks before the August primary election, spreading confusion to voters about what would be in effect for the election. With the November presidential election just a few months away, the timing of both of these rulings are suspect.
Wisconsin has a proud history of open elections. In 1976 we were one of the first states to offer same day registration at the polls. Today, voters also have extended opportunities to vote early via in person absentee and mailed ballots. Next year, due to the law I authored, Wisconsin will add secure online voter registration, bringing our elections into the 21st century. Only 5 other states offer both online and same day voter registration.
It is important that our elections system remains accessible to all eligible voters. Voter ID is equally as important because it ensures the validity of each vote. It provides solace that when you go to the polls you know your vote won’t be canceled out by potential fraud. Both voter ID cases are being appealed by the state. As Chairman of the Senate Elections Committee, I will continue to work to ensure Wisconsin’s elections remain fair and secure.
Senator Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) chairs the Senate Elections and Local Government Committee and serves the 9th Senate District, which includes portions of Calumet, Manitowoc, and Sheboygan Counties.