In early 2015, The Supreme Court of the United States turned down a request which challenged Wisconsin’s voter ID laws. This decision has disappointed the ACLU and other civil rights groups which had hoped that the law would help minorities, students, senior citizens and the disabled to exercise their right to vote. The Republicans are quite happy with the decision as they believe that strong voter ID laws will prevent fraud, especially during major elections. Democrats firmly believe that such laws hinder people from voting for their party.
Why it is such a big deal
One of the directors of the Advancement Project, a civil rights group believes that the Supreme Court’s decision is not a great one as it sets democracy back a few steps. There are over 300,000 registered voters in the state of Wisconsin who don’t have the right IDs to vote. Most of them are Latinos and African American – each individual deserves to exercise their right to vote and make their voices heard. The values supported and set forth in the Constitution and also the Voting Rights Act are not upheld when burdensome ID requirements make it impossible for eligible voters to cast their ballot. Thanks to Wisconsin’s restrictive voter ID laws, free and fair elections are not available to all citizens.
Voter ID laws were passed by the state legislature in 2011 and signed by Governor Scott Walker, who is incidentally one of the Republicans running for Presidential office. Even though it was declared unconstitutional by a federal district level judge, this decision was reversed by a panel from the Seventh Circuit of Appeals. Legal experts are of the opinion that the Justices will settle this issue eventually.
Supporters and dissenters of the voter ID debate are now looking at the state of Texas where a similar issues is pending. A federal appeals court is deciding the issue – if the law goes into effect in Texas, it will have an adverse effect and restrict some people from voting in the upcoming elections. North Carolina is yet another state where voter ID laws will be effective as of 2016, unless they are struck down. Indiana’s voter ID laws were upheld in 2008 by the Supreme Court on the premise that fraud was a very real risk which could affect the results of closely contested races.
ACLU’s director Dale Ho is quoted as saying that he is happy that it is still possible for people to vote in Wisconsin without any restriction. Passing new laws and requirements just before an election can be a disaster – people should be free to cast their ballots at every election without worry. He also said that the ACLU is working on strategies to make sure that every American has a chance to vote without unnecessary barriers.
Voting for several municipal and school board seats is underway as well as for the Supreme Court in the state of Wisconsin. Implementing of voter ID laws was delayed upon the request of voting rights advocates to make it easier for people to choose their officials. Since the laws are different in each state, most people are taking a wait and watch attitude on how their rights will be impacted.