Republican legislators across the country have been pushing voter identification laws that are advertised as attempts to prevent election fraud, and they got a big boost in 2008 when the Supreme Court upheld an Indiana law. But a federal court ruling this week makes it clear the fight is not over yet.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Lyn Ademan invalidated the 2011 Wisconsin voter ID law, which he said addresses a largely imaginary problem in a way that "disproportionately impacts black and Latino voters." For voters who are poor, lack cars, don't use the Internet or have limited English proficiency, getting a state-approved identification is hard enough to discourage voting. "It is absolutely clear that [the law] will prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes," he said.
How does this verdict square with the Supreme Court ruling? In that case, Deininger noted, those challenging the law failed to produce a body of evidence that the law unduly hindered the right to vote. In this case, he said, there was ample evidence.
Voter ID laws are clearly part of a broad effort to curb election participation by groups prone to voting Democratic. Even the Supreme Court may eventually have to admit that the harms to democracy greatly exceed the benefits.