Republican Governor Scott Walker isn't going to let a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling, a Federal Court injunction, or the Voting Rights Act of 1965 stop him from trying to hastily suppress voter turnout ahead of the November 4 election. He sits neck-and-neck in the polls with his challenger, Democrat Mary Burke.
Gov. Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen hastily petitioned a Federal Appeals Court to reinstate Wisconsin's Voter ID law despite the fact that the beleaguered law is not yet consistent with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. What's more, the state has failed to comply with an unusual requirement issued by the Wisconsin Supreme Court last month.
Van Hollen himself admits as much, though he has already begun to petition the court ahead of such changes. The Journal Sentinel reported his comments:
"The reality is we're going to do everything possible we can to have voter ID in place by this November's general election. There are a number of arguments against the law that were made on a factual basis in the federal court that are undermined by changes that will be made to the law." [Emphasis ours]
What might those changes be? Walker's government isn't saying.
"I just can't imagine that this could be implemented by the November election without creating a huge mess," said Daniel Tokaji, an election law professor at Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.
"I think it would be imprudent to put it mildly to try to implement this law pursuant to an order issued after Sept. 12. I think that's just asking for trouble."
In a July decision filled with many unanswered questions, the court upheld the state's Voter ID law conditional to the Department of Motor Vehicles issuing free IDs to those who cannot afford the documents required to obtain an ID. The court reasoned that the cost of such documents (for example, birth certificates in Wisconsin cost $20) would amount to an illegal poll tax. Questions that remain include how the department might determine who can and would be eligible to receive free IDs, how such an assessment could even be made, or how voters could receive their free IDs in advance of the election.
Voter ID laws, opponents argue, are efforts to disenfranchise minorities, the poor and the young, all of whom tend to vote Democratic.
The federal appeals court does not expect to hear Walker's argument till after September 12, and the election process begins with the distribution of absentee ballots in mid-September.
In a separate editorial, the Journal Sentinel editorial board writes that the "[f]ederal appeals court should decline request to reinstate voter ID law."
Despite his challenging legal struggles surrounding allegations of campaign finance abuse and a pay-to-play scheme, Walker is still considered among the top potential Republican presidential candidates for 2016.
Given the hurried timeline, and how Walker's government admittedly prioritizes expediency over transparent policy making, it's difficult to interpret his agenda as a forthright effort to improve election law.
Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr