Let me say this up front, so you don't miss it this time: No, a Photo ID is not required to board an airplane. Period.
Last week, the ACLU filed an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of having the 7th Circuit Court of Appeal's ruling --- which overturned a lower court's injunction on Wisconsin's new Photo ID voting restriction --- stayed in advance of next month's election.
Today (Monday) a rather remarkable new opinion was issued by the 7th Circuit which seems designed to serve as a last-minute assist to the Republican defendants in Wisconsin in their response to the ACLU appeal, as Justice Elena Kagan has required the state's response no later than 5pm on Tuesday. The ruling is littered with blatant falsehoods.
To recap very briefly, how we got to this point, and the astonishing claims in the 7th Circuit's opinion today: the GOP law requiring very specific types of state-issued Photo IDs for voting in Wisconsin was struck down earlier this year after it was found, by U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman, to be both a violation of the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act. His thorough, 70-page ruling [PDF] found that some 300,000 legally registered voters in Wisconsin (nearly 10% of them) lacked the specific type of Photo ID that would now be needed vote under the new restriction. Adelman also determined that the law amounts to a "unique burden [which] disproportionately impacts Black and Latino voters" (who just happen to lean towards Democratic candidates), and that the new restriction on voting would "prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes."
In mid-September, on appeal, a panel of three Republican-appointed judges on the 7th Circuit tossed out Adelman's permanent injunction with little comment. Amidst ensuing "electoral chaos", as election officials and voters in the state scrambled to make sense of the stunning last minute change to the law, just weeks before the mid-term election, the ACLU appealed for a rehearing before the full 7th Circuit. That hearing resulted in a deadlocked 5 to 5 vote by the judges (one seat on the court has been vacant since 2010), which meant that the partisan 3-judge panel's ruling, restoring the Photo ID restriction after it had been struck down by the lower court, now remains in place.
That brings us to the ACLU's emergency appeal to SCOTUS last week, and Monday's remarkable new opinion issued by the 7th Circuit at the last minute, clearly made to justify the original opinion issued last week which seems to have otherwise landed with a thud. (The court had attempted to compare a "need" to restore new voting restrictions at the last minute to the U.S. Supreme Court's stay placed on the overturning of same-sex marriage bans in several states last year. The dissenters called the court's legal theories "brazen", "shocking" and on its central thesis comparing the WI law to a 2008 landmark case in Indiana, "dead wrong.")
University of California-Irvine's election law professor Rick Hasen described the new opinion issued on Monday as "a nice assist from the 7th Circuit panel to the state of Wisconsin," just in time for the SCOTUS deadline.
In a more detailed follow-up item, however, Hasen, who is usually quite conservative when it comes to concerns about Photo ID voting restrictions, went somewhat ballistic. He uncharacteristically upbraided the 7th Circuit's newly issued ruling --- apparently written by the very rightwing Federalist Society member Judge Frank Easterbrook --- as "Horrendous".
"I rarely just rant in my blog posts," he tweeted, along with a link to his follow-up, "But Judge Easterbrook caused me to blow a gasket."
I know the feeling. I felt the exact same way while reading the new opinion today, particularly the part in which the court offers blatant --- and long-ago debunked --- falsehoods about where and when they claim Photo ID to be "essential", such as when boarding an airplane.
Trouble is, that is a blatant lie. A Photo ID is absolutely not required to board an airplane, no matter how many times proponents of these sorts of laws repeat the false claim. And it's simply remarkable that such a lie (and others akin to it) would be included in a last-minute opinion meant to justify an Appellate Court ruling that is about to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court...