The ACLU is taking Wis. Gov. Scott Walker to court over the state’s new—and highly restrictive—voter ID law.
This law, which Walker signed on May 25, requires all Wisconsin voters to present an approved form of photo identification.
“The photo ID law imposes a severe and undue burden on the fundamental right to vote under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution; violates the Twenty-Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution as an unconstitutional poll tax; and violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in arbitrarily refusing to accept certain identification documents,” the lawsuit say.
The ACLU national office, the Wisconsin ACLU, and the National Law Center for Homelessness & Poverty on Tuesday filed the class-action lawsuit against Walker, as well as more than a dozen other state officials.
The lawsuit lists 18 plaintiffs, including Ruthelle Frank, an 84-year-old woman who “has voted in every election since 1948 and intends to vote in Wisconsin again next year,” the suit says. Problem is, “she has no accepted form of photo ID under the photo ID law and lacks a certified copy of her birth certificate, which she needs to prove citizenship.” It would cost her to get a copy of her birth certificate, which misspelled her name, the lawsuit says. Getting it fixed “might require $200 or more,” the suit says.
Another plaintiff is Carl Ellis, 52, and a veteran. “Mr. Ellis is currently living in a homeless shelter for veterans and has no income or savings. Mr. Ellis has no accepted form of photo ID under the photo ID law,” the suit says, “and lacks a certified copy of his birth certificate from the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Vital Records Office. Given his financial circumstances, Mr. Ellis cannot afford to pay for a certified copy of his Illinois birth certificate.” He does have a veteran’s ID card, but that doesn’t pass muster under the Wisconsin law.
A third plaintiff is Justin Luft, 20, who “has traveled twice to the Wisconsin DMV office to obtain a state ID card, but was unable to do so due to the lack of a Social Security card or any other accepted form of proof of identity,” the suit says. “Mr. Luft has visited the Social Security Administration office five times with his mother in a reasonable, but unsuccessful, effort to obtain a duplicate.”
The lawsuit says that “the Equal Protection Clause prohibits the imposition of severe burdens on the right to vote unless they are narrowly drawn to advance a state interest of compelling importance.” The state of Wisconsin has not demonstrated “any compelling governmental interest,” the suit says, though in many cases, the new laws results in “a total deprivation of the right to vote.”
The Voter ID law also violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, the suit says, by arbitrarily casting doubt on whether technical college ID cards or ID cards from two-year state colleges will be recognized as valid. It also violates this clause by treating Veteran Identification Cards as unacceptable, whereas other U.S. military ID cards are OK.
As to the poll tax charge, the Twenty-Fourth Amendment outlaws “any poll tax or other tax” on voting. The Wisconsin law violates this amendment, the suit says, because obtaining Social Security cards or birth certificates costs money. It also violates this by forcing people who want to obtain a Wisconsin driver’s license to forfeit their license from another state.
“The state of Wisconsin has created a voter ID system that is making it very hard or impossible for residents to exercise their cherished right to vote,” said Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “Wisconsin residents, including veterans, minority voters and seniors who have been voting for decades, will be turned away from the polls under this law’s restrictive photo ID requirements. Our lawsuit aims to block this unconstitutional law so that Wisconsin can continue its proud tradition of high participation in elections.”
In October, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin also sued Walker over the Voter ID law.
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