Voter Identification

GOP voter ID law gets crushed: Why Judge Richard Posner’s new opinion is so amazing

GOP voter ID law gets crushed: Why Judge Richard Posner's new opinion is so amazing

Richard Posner (Credit: Reuters/John Gress)

For some of us these are indeed the best of times and the worst of times…

Salon

Conservative icon/federal judge changes mind on photo ID laws, issues blistering dissent against them. Read it here…

This post originally appeared on The BRAD BLOG.

If you read just one top-to-bottom dismantling of every supposed premise in support of disenfranchising Photo ID voting restrictions laws in your lifetime, let it be this one [PDF].

It is a dissent, released on Friday, written by Judge Richard Posner, the Reagan-appointed 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge who was the one who approved the first such Photo ID law in the country (Indiana’s) back in 2008, in the landmark Crawford v. Marion County case which went all the way to the Supreme Court, where Posner’s ruling was affirmed.

If there was ever evidence that a jurist could change their mind upon review of additional subsequent evidence, this is it. If there was ever a concise and airtight case made against Photo ID laws and the threat they pose to our most basic right to vote, this is it. If there was ever a treatise revealing such laws for the blatantly partisan shell games that they are, this is it.

His dissent includes a devastating response to virtually every false and/or disingenuous rightwing argument/talking point ever put forth in support of Photo ID voting restrictions, describing them as “a mere fig leaf for efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote for the political party that does not control the state government.”

Posner is, by far, the most widely cited legal scholar of the 20th century, according to The Journal of Legal Studies. His opinions are closely read by the Supreme Court, where the battle over the legality and Constitutionality of Photo ID voting laws will almost certainly wind up at some point in the not too distant future. That’s just one of the reasons why this opinion is so important.

This opinion, written on behalf of five judges on the 7th Circuit, thoroughly disabuses such notions such as: these laws are meant to deal with a phantom voter fraud concern (“Out of 146 million registered voters, this is a ratio of one case of voter fraud for every 14.6 million eligible voters”); that evidence shows them to be little more than baldly partisan attempts to keep Democratic voters from voting (“conservative states try to make it difficult for people who are outside the mainstream…to vote”); that rightwing partisan outfits like True the Vote, which support such laws, present “evidence” of impersonation fraud that is “downright goofy, if not paranoid”; and the notion that even though there is virtually zero fraud that could even possibly be deterred by Photo ID restrictions, the fact that the public thinks there is, is a lousy reason to disenfranchise voters since there is no evidence that such laws actually increase public confidence in elections and, as new studies now reveal, such laws have indeed served to suppress turnout in states where they have been enacted.

There is far too much in it to appropriately encapsulate here for now. You just really need to take some time to read it in full. But it was written, largely, in response to the Appellate Court ruling last week by rightwing Judge Frank Easterbrook which contained one embarrassing falsehood and error after another, including the canards about Photo ID being required to board airplanes, open bank accounts, buy beer and guns, etc. We took apart just that one paragraph of Easterbrook’s ruling last week here, but Posner takes apart his colleague’s entire, error-riddled mess of a ruling in this response.

Amongst my favorite passages (and there are so many), this one [emphasis added]…

The panel is not troubled by the absence of evidence. It deems the supposed beneficial effect of photo ID requirements on public confidence in the electoral system “‘a legislative fact’-a proposition about the state of the world,” and asserts that “on matters of legislative fact, courts accept the findings of legislatures and judges of the lower courts must accept findings by the Supreme Court.” In so saying, the panel conjures up a fact-free cocoon in which to lodge the federal judiciary. As there is no evidence that voter impersonation fraud is a problem, how can the fact that a legislature says it’s a problem turn it into one? If the Wisconsin legislature says witches are a problem, shall Wisconsin courts be permitted to conduct witch trials? If the Supreme Court once thought that requiring photo identification increases public confidence in elections, and experience and academic study since shows that the Court was mistaken, do we do a favor to the Court-do we increase public confidence in elections-by making the mistake a premise of our decision? Pressed to its logical extreme the panel’s interpretation of and deference to legislative facts would require upholding a photo ID voter law even if it were uncontested that the law eliminated no fraud but did depress turnout significantly.

And this one…

There is only one motivation for imposing burdens on voting that are ostensibly designed to discourage voter-impersonation fraud, if there is no actual danger of such fraud, and that is to discourage voting by persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens.

And remember, once again, this is written by Richard Posner, the conservative Republican icon of a federal appellate court judge — the judge who wrote the opinion on behalf of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals approving of the first such Photo ID law in the country in 2008, the very case that rightwingers from Texas to Wisconsin now cite over and over (almost always incorrectly) in support of similar such laws — now, clearly admitting that he got the entire thing wrong.

One last point (for now): Our legal analyst Ernie Canning, who (along with me) will undoubtedly have much more to say on this dissent in upcoming days, suggests we award The BRAD BLOG’s almost-never-anymore-bestowed Intellectually Honest Conservative Award to Judge Posner. And so it shall be.

Now go read Posner’s dissent.

Voter ID Law Struck Down in TX, WI

Gov. Rick Perry R-TX | Tom Pennington

The Daily Beast

Sorry Rick…

The Supreme Court blocked Wisconsin from implementing its new voter-ID law on Thursday, the same night that a federal judge in Texas struck down that state’s law requiring voters to produce government-issued identification before voting. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos, an Obama appointee, ruled that Texas’s law amounted to an “unconstitutional poll tax” intended to discriminate against Hispanic and black citizens. She said that although she found no “smoking guns” of racist intentions in the 2011 session in which the law was passed, the law’s sponsors “were motivated, at the very least in part, because of and not merely in spite of the voter-ID law’s detrimental effects on the African-American and Hispanic electorate.” A spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said that the state will “immediately appeal” the ruling. The Supreme Court gave no reason for its ruling, but Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas dissented, arguing that they cannot block an appeals court unless it “clearly and demonstrably erred in its application of accepted standards.”

Voter ID laws just decided an election in Mississippi

 

America Blog

In a special election runoff last Tuesday, Glenn Bolin and Stephanie Bounds both received exactly 177 votes to become the next alderman for Poplarville, Mississippi.

However, while 354 ballots were cast, 355 people showed up to vote. One person showed up without a valid photo ID and was forced to vote by affidavit. They didn’t return to the registrar’s office with the required ID, so the two candidates drew straws to determine the winner. Bolin won.

We can’t be sure who would have won had all of the votes been counted, because no one knows who the 355th voter is or who they supported. In fact, the town drew straws two days after the election instead of thestate-mandated five business days (which would have been yesterday) because no one expected them to show up. As Bolin noted after the initial balloting, “My thinking is that person is not going to come in, because they don’t want all the attention of being the one vote.”

So, the fact that the election came down to straws was very much due to the rejection and subsequent social intimidation of this anonymous voter who was not, by any stretch of the imagination, attempting to impersonate someone else at the polls.

vote fraud

For those of you keeping score at home, when it comes to changing the outcome of elections in the modern era, that’s voter ID laws: 1; voter  impersonation: 0.

I shouldn’t have to restate here, but I will, how mind-numbingly backwards, racist and misdirected voter photo ID laws are. I also shouldn’t have to restate how many better ways there are to reform and improve upon our antiquated election system. This is an embarrassment for Mississippi, and really for any state that has attempted to restrict voting access via ID requirements in the last decade.

I was curious to see what Mississippi State Senator Joey Fillingane (R – Sumrall) and Delegate Bill Denny Jr. (R – Hinds), the law’s sponsors, think about this, so I emailed them. Do they think their laws have been a success? How do they even measure success for laws like this? How does the Poplarville election factor into their evaluation of the law? So far, I haven’t heard back. I’ll update this post if they respond.

Come to think of it, I’d be curious to see how all of the sponsors of similar laws on the books feel about this. Below are links to the sponsors of photo ID laws in the eight states where they are currently on the books. If you live in these states, you know what to do:

Arkansas, GeorgiaIndiana (Indiana’s law is now old enough that its sponsor, State Senator Victor Heinold, is now retired), Kansas, MississippiTennesseeTexas and Virginia. I should probably throw in North Carolina, whose photo ID law is slated to go into effect in 2016.

If these elected officials have the slightest sense of shame over the absolute disaster that has been photo ID in their states, they should say so. At the very least, they should be asked.

Paul Diverges From His Party Over Voter ID

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, in Memphis for a Republican National Committee meeting, met with a group of black pastors. Credit Joe Buglewicz for The New York Times

The New York Times

MEMPHIS — Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky broke Friday with fellow Republicans who have pushed for stricter voting laws as a way to crack down on fraud at the polls, saying that the focus on such measures alienates and insults African-Americans and hurts the party.

“Everybody’s gone completely crazy on this voter ID thing,” Mr. Paul said in an interview. “I think it’s wrong for Republicans to go too crazy on this issue because it’s offending people.”

Mr. Paul becomes the most prominent member of his party — and among the very few — to distance himself from the voting restrictions and the campaign for their passage in states under Republican control, including North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, that can determine presidential elections. Civil rights groups call the laws a transparent effort to depress black turnout.

Speaking here in a mostly black and Democratic city with its own painful history of racism, Mr. Paul said that much of the debate over voting rights had been swept up in the tempest of racial politics.

The senator has had his own struggles with civil rights issues, hedging at times on his support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And, notably, he did not on Friday denounce voter ID laws as bad policy or take back previous statements in which he had said it was not unreasonable for voters to be required to show identification at the polls. He says these laws should be left to the states. (Kentucky does not have a restrictive voter identification statute.)

Instead, in his comments, he suggested that Republicans had been somewhat tone deaf on the issue.  In the last three years, the voting rights fight has extended to more than 30 states and taken on a more partisan tone. The measures that have passed or are under consideration vary. Some require that voters come to the polls with a birth certificate, passport or other proof of citizenship. Others would cut back on early voting.

The movement gained momentum last year after the Supreme Court struck down a central provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that had required mostly Southern states to get Justice Department approval before changing its voting laws. States moved quickly, and since the decision last June, about a dozen have passed laws creating stricter regulations for voting.

Few issues ignite such passion among the base of both parties. Democrats argue that the laws are intended to keep poor voters away from the polls because they often have difficulty obtaining identification. Republicans contend cheating is rife in today’s elections.

Mr. Paul was in Memphis for the Republican National Committee’s spring meeting, but beforehand, he sat down to discuss his views on voting rights, public education and antipoverty policies with a group of black pastors.

Afterward, in a news conference, Mr. Paul admitted he still had a lot of work to do. Sometimes, he said, his audiences tell him: “I like what you’re saying. I’m still not voting for you.”

“That’s why you’ve got to keep saying it,” he said.

Mr. Paul’s remarks seem certain to stir up concern among Republicans over whether the senator — a libertarian-minded ophthalmologist who was first elected to public office three years ago — can appeal to the conservative voters who have so much influence in selecting the nominee.

He is not getting much support from Republican leaders in his efforts to change the discussion or the party’s tone. Colin L. Powell and Michael Steele, the former party chairman, have spoken against the restrictions. But no ranking Republican has done so, and there was no indication Friday that any would change their minds.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, often seen as a party rival to Mr. Paul, has said that it is unfortunate that it is “minority voters who are the victims of that fraud,” but that governments “should not be working to undermine the integrity of our elections.”

Another Republican widely seen as a contender for the party’s presidential nomination in 2016, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, has embraced a contentious measure in his state to eliminate voting on Sunday and enact other restrictions.

Voting experts said the impact of the new laws might not become clear until the November elections. Many of the measures have yet to take effect, and a few will not start until 2016.

IT BEGINS: SUPREMES SAVE TX VOTER ID

I’m a bit late reporting this…

The Huffington Post

The Supreme Court has thrown out lower court rulings that blocked a Texas voter identification law and the state’s political redistricting plans as discriminatory.

The court’s action Thursday was a predictable result of its major ruling two days earlier that effectively ended the federal government’s strict supervision of elections in Texas and other states with a history of discrimination in voting.

The justices ordered lower courts to reconsider in light of Tuesday’s ruling.

In both the voter ID and redistricting cases, the court stopped the state from putting in place the laws under the advance approval requirement of the Voting Rights Act.

The court has said that part of the law cannot be used unless Congress develops a new formula for determining which states and localities should be covered.

Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Ruling: Judge Halts Enforcement Of Law For Election

It appears that Judge Robert Simpson’s ruling might just be a band-aid for the law’s many problems.  Apparently voters don’t have to show ID but the poll worker can still ask for it!

Sounds like a quick-fix that may be filled with confusion and dismay on election day.

The Huffington Post

A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday postponed the enforcement of the state’s new strict voter ID requirement until after the November presidential election.

In a much-anticipated ruling, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr. ordered that voters without government-issued photo ID should be allowed to cast regular ballots.

“That’s a huge win,” said Witold J. Walczak, an attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, “because last week the judge was suggesting that he was going to have every [voter without ID] vote provisionally.”

At the same time, the judge specifically ruled to allow the state to continue its education and advertising campaign, which currently tells voters that IDs are required.

Walczak said that if the state doesn’t change that message, “we may be back in court.”

“You can’t be telling people you need ID if you’re not actually requiring ID,” he said. “That advertising has to be modified to reflect reality.”

“Confusion is not a good thing on election day,” he said. “Confusion is going to mean some voters stay home. Confusion is going to mean that some poll workers get it wrong.”

Matthew Keeler, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania secretary of state, said the state is “pleased because the law itself hasn’t changed. What’s going on is there’s a soft rollout for the general election, just like the primary.”

Voters will still be asked for ID, he noted. If they don’t have it, they’ll be given information on how to get it.

As for the advertising campaign, “we’re looking into what needs to be updated,” Keeler said. “To completely take that away, would just muddle the area, as it were.”

“We’ll work on fixing things if we think they need to be fixed,” Keeler added.

Opponents of the law had expressed fears that it could dissuade or prevent tens of thousands of mostly poor, elderly, young or infirm citizens from voting.

Simpson’s injunction “will have the effect of extending the express transition provisions of [the new law] through the general election,” the judge wrote. That means that, just like during the primary election, voters will be asked for ID but still be allowed to vote if they don’t have it.

The law as passed by the Republican legislature and signed by the Republican governor had only allowed people without ID to cast “provisional” ballots, which would be thrown out unless they returned with ID within six days.

The Pennsyvlania legislature is one of several that, after Republicans took control in 2010, passed legislation to make it harder, rather than easier, to vote.

The voter ID bills, like similar moves to restrict voter registration, eliminate early voting, purge voter rolls and send pollwatchers into minority precincts. All are ostensibly intended to prevent voter fraud, an almost nonexistent problem according to research on the issue. In contrast, such moves have a disproportionate effect on minorities and young voters, and ultimately serve to block legitimate but probably Democratic voters from exercising their constitutional rights.

Simpson’s new decision comes six weeks after he upheld the entire law as is.

His initial ruling dealt mostly with whether the General Assembly had the authority to establish such voting requirements. Simpson decided it did — basing his decision in part on a bigoted and discredited 19th century state court decision.

Opponents of the law appealed, and Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court sent the case backto Simpson, this time ordering him to rule on the practical side of things, namely: Was the state upholding the law’s procedures for deployment of ID cards such that there would be “no voter disenfranchisement” as a result?

The high court’s order seemed designed to force the judge to enjoin the law, given that the state had stipulated it wasn’t following the exact procedures set out in the law and that so many registered voters clearly still lacked ID.

Witnesses last week movingly described the many frustrating barriers faced by the elderly and infirm in particular in their attempts to get ID.

But on Thursday, Simpson indicated that he would let “the good parts” of the bill stand.

Tea Party Threatens Revenge Against Pennsylvania Justices For Not Upholding Voter ID Law

 

Someone please explain this to me:  How in the hell did the Tea Party turn into an intimidation , extortion and revenge organization?

They’re talking about “exacting revenge” on a group of State Supreme Court Justices who didn’t think that voter intimidation was just and decided to send the case back to the lower court and commented that the law should be suspended immediately.

Who are these people and what do they really want from us, in addition to getting the “black guy” out of office?

Think Progress

Earlier this week, every single sitting Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice rejecteda lower court decision allowing that state’s voter ID law to take effect. Four justices joined a majority opinion requiring the lower court judge to look at the case again due to concerns that voters were unable to obtain the IDs they were supposed to have easy access to as a matter of law, and two more justices joined a dissent arguing that the law should simply be suspended right away. Three of the justices in the majority were Republicans.

Nevertheless, a Tea Party group is now threatening to exact revenge upon the state supreme court for refusing to uphold a law that prevents many low-income, student and minority voters from casting a ballot:

A Philadelphia-area tea party group says it will work to defeat two state Supreme Court justices next year if the state’s new voter identification law isn’t in effect for the Nov. 6 election.

The Independence Hall Tea Party on Thursday also criticized the court’s decision to send a legal challenge to the law back for a lower court review.

It called the decision “a cowardly move” to “punt the ball.”

Chief Justice Ronald Castille, a Republican, and Justice Max Baer, a Democrat, are each finishing a 10-year term in January 2014.

These kinds of campaigns of vengeance against justices who place the law ahead of conservative’s policy preferences are increasingly common. Two years ago, a Florida Tea Party group launched a similar revenge campaign after the Florida Supreme Court kept an unconstitutional ballot initiative attempting to nullify the Affordable Care Act off the state ballot. Similarly, anti-gay groups poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a successful effort to remove three Iowa supreme court justices because they had the audacity to recognize that the state’s constitution does not permit discrimination against gay couples.

As a recent Center for American Progress report explains, corporate interest groups have alsospent big money to stack state judiciaries with friendly judges and justices. In one of the most egregious cases, a West Virginia coal baron spent $3 million to buy a seat on the state supreme court for a justice who later went on to strike down a $50 million verdict against his company, although the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the bought-and-paid-for justice should have recused himself.

 

Eric Holder: Voter ID Laws Are ‘Poll Taxes’

Eric Holder Voter Id Poll Tax

Was there ever any doubt?

The Huffington Post

Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday he opposes a new photo ID requirement in Texas elections because it would be harmful to minority voters.

In remarks to the NAACP in Houston, the attorney general said the Justice Department “will not allow political pretexts to disenfranchise American citizens of their most precious right.”

Under the law passed in Texas, Holder said that “many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them – and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them.”

“We call those poll taxes,” Holder added spontaneously, drawing applause as he moved away from the original text of his speech with a reference to a fee used in some Southern states after slavery’s abolition to disenfranchise black people.

The 24th amendment to the constitution made that type of tax illegal.

Holder spoke a day after a trial started in federal court in Washington over the 2011 law passed by Texas’ GOP-dominated Legislature that requires voters to show photo identification when they get to the polls.

Under Texas’ law, Holder noted, a concealed handgun license would serve as acceptable ID to vote, but a student ID would not. He went on to say that while only 8 percent of white people do not have government-issued photo IDs, about 25 percent of black people lack such identification.

“I don’t know what will happen as this case moves forward, but I can assure you that the Justice Department’s efforts to uphold and enforce voting rights will remain aggressive,” the attorney general said.

Holder said the arc of American history has always moved toward expanding the electorate and that “we will simply not allow this era to be the beginning of the reversal of that historic progress.”

“I will not allow that to happen,” he added.

The attorney general spoke at the 103rd convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which is launching a battle against new state voter ID laws. NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous has likened the fight against conservative-backed voter ID laws passed in several states to “Selma and Montgomery times,” referring to historic Alabama civil rights confrontations of the mid-1960s.

Holder, the first black man named U.S. Attorney General, was received with resounding applause, a standing ovation and chants of “Holder, Holder, Holder” at the convention.

Those chants quickly changed to “stand your ground, stand your ground,” a reference to a Florida law that neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman is using to defend fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager he encountered while patrolling his community in February. Police did not initially arrest or charge Zimmerman, saying the “stand your ground” law allowed self-defense. He was later charged with second-degree murder.

Holder said the Justice Department under his leadership has taken unprecedented steps to study and prevent violence against youth and address the high homicide rate among young black men.

Finally, the attorney general noted with pride that the U.S. Supreme Court in two recent rulings regarding President Barack Obama’s health care law and immigration laws passed in Arizona, largely supported the federal government and the Department of Justice. However, he said, he remained concerned that Arizona law enforcement, under the portion of the law upheld by the court, would be able to check the immigration status of any person suspected of being in the United States illegally.

“No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like,” Holder said.