Great news for voters today in Wisconsin, via Project Vote...
Circuit Judge David Flanagan called the voter ID measure “the single most restrictive voter eligibility law” in the nation, according to the Associated Press.
“The NAACP’s Milwaukee branch and immigration rights group Voces de la Frontera sued over the law last year. A trial on whether to grant a permanent injunction is scheduled for April 16,” AP reports.
The groups asserted that more than 220,000 eligible voters would be unable to prove identity to vote under the new law.
“The scope of the impairment has been shown to be serious, extremely broad and largely needless,” Flanagan wrote in his court order. “There is no doubt that the plaintiffs have shown a very substantial likelihood of success on the merits.”
The state is expected to appeal the decision.
“It’s a solid victory for voting rights and all voters in the state of Wisconsin,” said Richard Saks, attorney for the NAACP. “It’s a win for the hundreds of thousands who have difficulty or find it impossible to get voter ID under Act. 23,” Saks said.
In granting the temporary injunction, Flanagan's 11-page order [PDF] "concludes that the plaintiffs have demonstrated the probability of success as well as the likelihood of irreperable harm," in their original complaint which is set for trial beginning next month. The case, Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP v. Scott Walker, is based solely on the argument that Act 23 is in violation of the WI state constitution. Flanagan's ruling is grounded in a fundamentally conservative interpretation of the state constitution's guaranteed right to vote, and on historic precendents where the state Supreme Court has decided in favor of that right over legislative laws affecting that right to the disadvantage of the voter.
Today's ruling is the first judicial blow against the vote suppressing law passed by Republicans in the wake of their 2010 electoral victory in the Badger State. There are now at least four different legal complaints filed against Wisconsin's Act 23 challenging both the state and federal Constitutionality of the law. The most recent suit was filed late last month, and detailed by our own Ernest Canning who also calls for the U.S. Dept. of Justice to intervene in the case in order to enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in Wisconsin, on the basis of racial discrimination.
Late last year the ACLU filed a 54-page federal class action complaint on behalf of some 17 named plaintiffs, including elderly, student, minority and even veteran voters, all of whom may otherwise be unable to cast their once-legal vote under the state's new law passed by its GOP legislature and signed into law by Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2011.
The lead plaintiff in that case, 86-year old Ruthelle Frank, is disabled and was born at home. She never had a birth certificate. Though she's been legally voting in every election since 1948 and is an elected member of the Brokaw Village Board, she may have to pay more than $200 in order to have a birth certificate created and typos in her name, as recorded by the state registrar, corrected before she can receive the "free" state-issued Photo ID that would allow her to vote under the new law.
Even younger, more able-bodied voters have had problems jumping through some of the hoops required to obtain a so-called "free" ID in Wisconsin, as documented on video tape last summer by a woman attempting to help her son obtain one from the state DMV.
In a small primary in the state late last month, the first full implementation of the statute, a number of voters were reportedly denied their right to vote --- at polling places where they had legally voted for years prior --- after they were unable to present Photo ID which met the state's new draconian restrictions. For now, at least for the upcoming April primary in Wisconsin, those restrictions will mercifully be on hold.
UPDATE: Flanagan's ruling was extremely powerful and likely very difficult to rebut, short of an out-and-out activist ruling by the Right-leaning state Supreme Court. (They've done it before, so I wouldn't put it past them.) I've posted a few additional snippets from Flanagan's must-read decision in comments below. Our legal analyst Ernest Canning, who has been closely covering the WI challenges to Act 23, has also now rung in with a few more thoughts on Flanagan's decision there as well.