Voter ID: How Can the U.S. Supreme Court Be Wrong?

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has decided that Wisconsin’s voter ID law is no great burden after all, and therefore the ID law couldn’t possibly be unconstitutional since Wisconsin’s Supreme Court and the state have come up with ways to make obtaining and paying for proof of who you are a lot easier, so they say. Besides, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that Indiana’s voter ID law is, to use a legal term, hunky-dory.

For once you can somehow prove to the state you are who you say you are, you can get a free voting ID with your photo on it. This will allow poll workers to verify each voter’s face, which will prevent voter fraud because sly voters will be less likely to obtain facial reconstruction surgery or a Richard Nixon mask in order to vote twice or more.

The three judges of the 7th Circuit ruled that U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman was presumptuous to find that some 300,000 voters in the state lack photo ID’s and so would be burdened by having to get one to vote, along with the fact that voter fraud is about as rare as (it seems) legal intelligence. Not even state officials could find any evidence of such fraud. What’s worse,  the Appeals Court judges noted that Judge Adelman had the effrontery to disagree with the U.S. Supreme Court. As the Journal Sentinel tells it:

“During arguments Friday, [Judge Diane] Sykes called Adelman’s decision one that gave the plaintiffs “a whopper” of a remedy that she found “hard to reconcile” with a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding Indiana’s voter ID law. [Judge Frank] Easterbrook also questioned how Adelman could render his ruling in light of that decision.

“He took evidence and found the Supreme Court was wrong,” Easterbrook said of Adelman.”

Can you imagine? How in the world can the U.S. Supreme Court possibly be wrong?

So the 7th Circuit in Chicago believes it has righted a great wrong by putting a Milwaukee judge in his place. And now Wisconsin can go ahead and ask its citizens for photo ID at the polls this November 4th, even though the election day is less than two months away.  Wisconsin Republicans are, of course, gleeful at all the voting confusion and the likely loss of Democratic votes this ruling will cause, but the U.S. Supreme Court could step in to block the photo ID rule for November’s election. That would be the right thing to do, yet the U.S. Supremes have not displayed lately the sort of infallible judgment we might expect from great legal minds unclouded by political/religious prejudice.

As for the 7th Circuit decision, the Wisconsin League of Women Voters admitted to being “disappointed and shocked” by this whopper of a ruling. Well, at least women are still allowed to vote in Wisconsin– as long as you can prove you are, indeed,  a woman.

POSTSCRIPT: Despite some appalling decisions by federal courts recently in Wisconsin cases (and Supreme Court decisions in D.C.), Democrats and the progressively-minded elsewhere across the nation can take some comfort in this NY Times report on the growing number of federal appeals court judges appointed and confirmed by Democrats. The 7th Circuit, however, remains a Republican majority.

And the NY Times notes on its editorial page blog that even a 7th Circuit judge regrets approving Indiana’s voter ID law, now seeing it as the voter-suppression bill it is. A professor of election law, the NY Times also notes, called the latest 7th Circuit voter ID decision “a big, big mistake.”

UPDATE: (10/10) Sometimes the U.S. Supreme Court can be right, as the decision to block the Voter ID requirement for this year’s election demonstrates.

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