Opponents of voter ID and other commonsense election integrity reforms enacted by Wisconsin’s Republican-led Legislature didn’t fare well in federal court last week.
A skeptical Seventh Circuit panel was “harshly critical of a federal judge’s finding that Wisconsin’s voter ID law discriminates against black voters” and found “little direct evidence to support ruling the law unconstitutional.”
At oral arguments Friday morning, a Seventh Circuit panel asked virtually no questions of Wisconsin Chief Deputy Solicitor General Ryan Walsh, who argued that the state provides its citizens with the “most generous, voter-friendly system in the nation.”
But U.S. Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook grilled plaintiff One Wisconsin’s attorney Bruce Spiva.
“The Supreme Court has said that knowledge of disparate impact does not prove discriminatory intent,” Easterbrook said, expressing his doubt that the nonprofit carried its burden of proof.
Arguments against the state’s early voting rules didn’t go over any better with the panel.
[Easterbrook] said those challenging Wisconsin’s voting laws were contending that Democrats can expand voting rules to help their party at the polls but Republicans can’t tighten them to their advantage.
“That can’t be right,” he said during arguments in a pair of Wisconsin cases.
His colleagues on the panel — Judges Michael Kanne and Diane Sykes — showed they had just as many doubts about lower court rulings that struck down voting rules set by GOP Gov. Scott Walker and Republican lawmakers.
La Crosse County prosecutors charged Onalaska felon on probation Mark Fischer with illegally voting in two 2016 elections. Fischer told authorities he knew he was ineligible but voted in the April presidential primary and November general election anyway because he “felt that this election was important.”
This wasn’t one of those “honest mistakes” voter fraud deniers like to blame, and Fischer seems to have made a rational assessment of the risk before committing his crime.
Onalaska election officials did make a mistake – twice – by failing to prevent an ineligible person from illegally voting. Catching these cases after the fact doesn’t stop illegal votes from being counted.
After pleading not guilty to voter fraud back in August, Troy Schiller admitted Tuesday to voting twice in the April 5, 2016 election, claiming he “got wrapped up in too much talk radio” and “made a careless decision.”
So “too much talk radio” made Schiller commit a felony that could have cost him 3.5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine? Wood County Circuit Judge Nicholas Brazeau Jr. must’ve bought it. He called Schiller “a good guy” and sentenced him to just 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Felony voter fraud penalties aren’t much of a deterrent if they aren’t imposed.
Brazeau did note that just one vote can decide an election, and has in Wood County, which is why the judge denied Schiller’s request for no jail time at all.
How was Schiller able to carelessly commit his crime? According to Wood County Clerk Cindy Cepress,
Schiller was registered to vote in Pittsville and showed identification to vote there, Cepress said. He also went to the Dexter polling place, showed identification and showed proof he was living in Dexter, Cepress said. While state election laws require identification to vote, the identification does not have to have a current address, Cepress said.
The Wisconsin recount may have a surprise in store after all. Actually, it’s not a “surprise” to anyone with ballot-counting experience:
Thanks to the efforts of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, a recount is underway in Wisconsin. It is highly unlikely to change the outcome — as Hillary Clinton’s campaign has stated — but it is much more likely to overturn some conventional wisdom about counting votes. In particular, we may learn, yet again, that computers are better than humans at counting ballots.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice is continuing its practice of deploying election integrity teams around the state on Election Day, according to the state’s Attorney General Brad Schimel:
“Voters in Wisconsin must have faith that when they cast their ballot, the integrity of their vote will be protected,” said Attorney General Schimel. “Our election integrity teams are well prepared to protect the democratic process in our state on Election Day.”
Assistant attorneys general and special agents from the Division of Criminal Investigation will be sent in teams to the counties Brown, Dane, Outagamie, Rock, Milwaukee, as well as the cities of Eau Claire, Kenosha, La Crosse, Racine, Stevens Point, Waukesha, and Wausau.
U.S. Western District Judge James Peterson on Thursday ordered Wisconsin to expand its voter ID public education efforts, including creating new materials about the petition process for voters who don’t have the documents otherwise required to obtain a free state-issued ID.
“After yet another attempt by the plaintiffs to strike down voter ID, the law remains in effect for the November election,” said DOJ Spokesman Johnny Koremenos.
The state has been offering voters free photo identification cards since Act 23 passed in 2011, and in January 2012 launched its “Bring It to the Ballot” public education campaign ahead of the February 2012 election that was the first to require voter ID – a campaign that was immediately squelched by a March 2012 injunction resulting from the first of many legal actions seeking, unsuccessfully, to strike down Wisconsin’s voter ID law.
A “significant victory for the people of Wisconsin” and election integrity:
A federal appeals court declined Friday to hear an appeal before a full panel of judges on the court to Wisconsin’s voter ID provision before November.
The decision deals a setback to the American Civil Liberties Union and other challengers to the law.
The court said the provision of the law can remain in place for now based on the representation of the state that it had enacted a rule for the next election that requires the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to automatically mail a free photo ID to anyone who comes to the DMV one time and initiates the free ID process.
A Wisconsin Department of Justice spokesman called the Seventh Circuit’s decision to deny plaintiffs’ en banc petitions “a significant victory for the people of Wisconsin” that “ensures that Voter ID will be in place for the upcoming election in November.”
Another win for voter ID, and election integrity, in Wisconsin.
“This is the second time in three days a court has granted [Attorney General Brad] Schimel’s motion for stay in a case challenging Wisconsin’s voter ID laws.”
Common sense from the Seventh Circuit, and a win for honest elections in Wisconsin:
The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay Wednesday of U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman’s order that struck down parts of Wisconsin’s Voter ID law last month, also indicating the lower court decision will likely be overturned…
“We conclude both that the district court’s decision is likely to be reversed on appeal and that disruption of the state’s electoral system in the interim will cause irreparable injury,” reads the judges’ order.
An appeal of a separate ruling is still pending.
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel asked the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency stay of a district court injunction “requiring the State to permit a subjective affidavit exception to its photo ID law.” The stay would allow the state to restore it’s full voter ID requirement for the November election.
The Republican attorney general’s action Monday came in the wake of a ruling last month by a federal judge in Milwaukee that pared back the photo ID law by allowing voters without identification to cast ballots by swearing to their identity.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman in Milwaukee created a pathway for voters with difficulties getting IDs who have been unable to cast ballots under the state’s 2011 voter ID law.
But as Schimel noted, all the plaintiffs “fall outside the class” of voters who don’t have or can’t with reasonable effort get IDs, “which is fatal to their case.”
Schimel argued that the injunction will cause voter confusion and require “that the State expend substantial resources to implement and publicize a procedure that encourages violations of the law.”
Plaintiffs’ response is due Friday.