By Matt Strahan
Note: Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their authors and not necessarily those of Penn Dems as an organization.
“No f*cking way!”
In a newly released ACLU video, Lewis Black, the always-enraged comedian, responded to recent attempts by conservative leaders in states around the country to implement stricter (and perhaps more discriminatory) voter ID laws. His message? “Not on my watch baby!”
Black’s video comes on the coattails of a flurry of court-based decisions which have blocked these highly contested bills and laws. Just last week the Supreme Court stayed a Wisconsin law, which would have required voters to purchase government-issued IDs before the upcoming November 4th election and present them on election day. Many opponents of the bill claim that the implementation came too close to election day, not giving Wisconsin voters adequate time to acquire and purchase proper IDs. Proponents of the bill argue that the voter ID bill would be a safeguard against voter fraud, specifically when considering absentee ballots.
So while many rejoiced last Thursday night, the question remains: what exactly does a stay accomplish?
Many, including U.S. Representative and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz, called the verdict a “strike-down,” but this is not true. A stay merely puts a temporary block on the law, but it does not actually find the law unconstitutional or unlawful. In fact, the one-paragraph order is unsigned by any particular justice and gives no reasoning as to its justification. This contrasts Tuesday’s decision by a federal Appeals Court to strike down a similar law in Texas that was introduced and supported by the state’s heavily-Republican legislature. The state’s attorney general has announced his intention to appeal this decision in order to protect the vote and stop voter fraud. But when did voter fraud become such a major problem? Is the integrity of your vote really in jeopardy?
The answer is, simply, no. According to a 2012 News21 study, between 2000 and 2012 there were a mere 2,068 reports of alleged voter fraud, of which only 10 could have been prevented by voter-ID laws. That means that for every one fraudulent vote, nearly 14.6 million were honestly and rightfully cast. Just last year, judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals came out against these voter-ID laws, calling the evidence used by conservatives as “downright goofy.” Posner is a fervent Republican, appointed to the bench by none other than the late President Ronald Reagan himself. Posner writes, “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?”
The reality is that these laws are attempts by conservative and Republican officials to protect their positions of power. It is no secret that minorities and poorer voters tend to side with liberals. In a 2012 Pew analysis, 87% of African American respondents identified as Democrats while only 8% identified as Republicans. In the 2016 presidential elections, minority groups are expected to make up approximately 30% of the electorate. Increasingly, these numbers are beginning to scare the modern GOP, which is pursuing a radical agenda to restrict voting. Traditionally, minority groups and lower-income groups have not had either the monetary-ability or the wherewithal to obtain government-issued IDs. By requiring IDs at polling places, the GOP would be discouraging if not blocking these underrepresented groups from voting—a desperate act from a desperate party.
The battle is far from over in the Badger state. The stay is simply an interim solution to the larger problem. At this time Wisconsin officials—including Governor Scott, who is seeking reelection this year—have not yet released a statement saying that they will comply with the Supreme Court decision. Only time will tell if the basic rights of Wisconsinites will be upheld.