Yesterday saw two rare victories for voting rights in states where conservative lawmakers and governors with presidential aspirations are catering to the fringe rightwing. The Supreme Court stopped officials in Wisconsin from requiring voters there to provide photo identification before casting their ballots in the coming election. While three justices dissented, voters were handed a 6-to-3 victory, not the 5-to-4 loss one might expect. Meanwhile in Texas, Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos concluded a two-week trial in Corpus Christi by finding the state’s voter ID law “creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.”
In Wisconsin the voter ID law is one of the strictest in the nation and was clearly drafted and passed with the intention of making it more difficult for minority voters, particularly in the Democratic strongholds of Milwaukee and Madison, as well as elderly and younger voters to cast their ballots. As The New York Times reports, since it was passed in 2011 and signed into law by Governor Scott Walker, it has been mostly blocked by various. A federal trial judge had blocked it, saying it would “deter or prevent a substantial number of the 300,000-plus registered voters who lack ID from voting” and would disproportionately affect black and Hispanic voters.
The law was provisionally reinstated last month by a unanimous three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Chicago. With the election looming, the law’s challengers quickly asked the Supreme Court to block it, knowing it would be nearly impossible to educate voters who lack a photo ID on the process to obtain an ID, and allow time for them to take time off work and wait in a long line at the DMV.