Walker & Corbett's Voter Suppression Laws Ruled Illegal

Governor Scott Walker and Governor Tom Corbett were both dealt tough blows yesterday when judges struck down Wisconsin and Pennsylvania’s voter ID laws. These blatant attempts by those vulnerable governors to prevent their citizens from voting have been part of a systematic effort by Republican governors across the country to help themselves and their right-wing allies win elections.

It’s shameless, but Corbett and Walker aren’t alone – a federal court ruled just last month that Florida Governor Rick Scott’s 2012 voter purge was, in fact, illegal.

Here’s the background on the voter suppression laws signed by Walker and Corbett that have now been struck down:

Scott Walker:

April 2014: Federal Judge Struck Down Wisconsin Voter ID Law. “In a decision that could have implications nationally and in Wisconsin’s November elections, a federal judge on Tuesday struck down the state’s voter ID law, saying it violated the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.” [Journal Sentinel, 4/29/14]

Judge: “Absolutely Clear” WI Law Would “Prevent More Legitimate Votes From Being Cast Than Fraudulent Votes,” Called In-Person Voter Impersonation Virtually Nonexistent. “‘There is no way to determine exactly how many people Act 23 will prevent or deter from voting without considering the individual circumstances of each of the 300,000 plus citizens who lack an ID,’ U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman wrote in his 70-page ruling. ‘But no matter how imprecise my estimate may be, it is absolutely clear that Act 23 will prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes.’ Adelman, who is based in Milwaukee, found the state didn’t have an appropriate rationale for imposing a voter ID requirement. In-person voter impersonation — the only type of fraud a voter ID law can prevent — is nonexistent or virtually nonexistent in Wisconsin, he wrote.” [Journal Sentinel, 4/29/14]

Walker Signed Law Requiring Voters to Show ID at the Polls. “Ending a decade-long quest by GOP officials, Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill Wednesday requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls…The law will require poll workers to start asking voters for photo IDs for the July 12 state Senate recall elections, but the voters will not be required to present them until next year’s presidential primary.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 5/25/11]

State Officials Told to Not Talk Up Free IDs for Public. “An internal memo from a top Department of Transportation official instructs workers at Division of Motor Vehicles service centers not to tell members of the public that they can obtain voter identification cards free of charge — unless they know to ask for it…As laid out in the memo, failure to check a box when applying for photo ID with the Division of Motor Vehicles will result in the payment of $28. Interviews conducted about the memo suggest the state is more interested in continuing to charge the fee, which is required for a photo ID used for non-voting purposes, than it is in removing all barriers and providing easy access to a free, photo ID.” [Capital Times, 9/7/11]

ACLU Filed Lawsuit against Walker Over Voter ID Law. In December 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the State of Wisconsin on Tuesday over a new law requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification, charging that the measure violates the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit says that the state is infringing on some citizens’ right to vote and to be treated equally under the law and amounts to a kind of poll tax on voters who lack the documents needed to get an approved ID. Republican lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker, who is named in the lawsuit along with a long list of other state officials, have said they believe the measure will withstand a court challenge. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,12/13/11]

“Wisconsin appeals court says Voter ID law’s photo requirement constitutional.” A Wisconsin appeals court ruled Thursday that the state’s Voter ID law is constitutional. The ruling overturns a March 2012 decision by Dane County Judge Richard Niess that declared the law, passed by Republicans in 2011, unconstitutional and enjoined state officials from implementing it. [The Daily Page, 5/30/13]

Tom Corbett:

April 2014: PA Commonwealth Court Refused To Revisit Decision Striking Down PA Voter ID Law. “Commonwealth Court has refused to revisit its decision striking down Pennsylvania’s controversial voter ID law. That means the law requiring voters to show ID cards is dead unless the Pennsylvania Supreme Court steps in.” [CBS Philly, 4/29/14]

March 2012: “Governor Corbett Signs Controversial Voter ID Bill Into Law .” “Just hours after the state House sent it to him, Governor Tom Corbett on Wednesday evening put his signature on the controversial bill that will require voters to show photo ID when they go to the polls in November. Moments after signing the bill, Corbett said photo IDs will not be required for next month’s election, saying the primary will essentially be a dry run for the November election.” [CBS Philly, 3/15/12]

Pennsylvania Voter ID Measure “One Of The Nation’s Toughest.” “Less than eight months before the presidential election, Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives has approved a measure to establish one of the nation’s toughest photo identification laws for voters. The 104-88 vote this afternoon in the Republican-controlled chamber came after three days of debate.” [CBS Philly, 3/14/12]

Pennsylvania GOP Chair Credited Voter ID Law With Cutting Obama Margin. “Supporters of Pennsylvania’s controversial new voter ID law – which is at this minute the subject of a court battle – say it’s about curbing in-person voter fraud… Now PA GOP party chairman Rob Gleason has set off a new round of criticism by crediting voter ID with helping narrow Obama’s margin of victory last fall. In an interview broadcast on PCN-TV, Gleason was asked whether he thought the attention drawn to Voter ID affected last year’s elections. He replied. ‘Yeah, I think a little bit. We probably had a better election. Think about this, we cut Obama by 5%, which was big. A lot of people lost sight of that. He won, he beat McCain by 10%, he only beat Romney by 5%. I think that probably Voter ID had helped a bit in that.’” [Commonwealth Confidential, Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/19/13]

NYT:Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Struck Down as Judge Cites Burden on Citizens.” “In a strongly worded decision, a state judge on Friday struck down Pennsylvania’s 2012 law requiring voters to produce a state-approved photo ID at the polls, setting up a potential Supreme Court confrontation that could have implications for other such laws across the country. The judge, Bernard L. McGinley of Commonwealth Court, ruled that the law hampered the ability of hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians to cast their ballots, with the burden falling most heavily on elderly, disabled and low-income residents, and that the state’s reason for the law — that it was needed to combat voter fraud — was not supported by the facts.” [New York Times, 1/17/14]