Wisconsin voter I.D. trial in court this week

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Now that the election is over, it is time to catch up on matters not receiving media attention this week, like this federal court trial in Wisconsin challenging that state's voter I.D. requirement. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported earlier this week, Federal trial challenging Wisconsin's voter ID law underway:

Minorities and senior citizens testified Monday about costly and
time-consuming difficulties they faced in getting photo identification
as they pressed their case to permanently invalidate Wisconsin's voter
ID law.

The federal trial that kicked off Monday involves two cases and is
expected to last two weeks. A Dane County judge in a different case has
already blocked the law, but opponents of voter ID are pursuing the
federal litigation in an attempt to ensure the requirement never goes
back into effect
.

* * *

The trial began with a string of people describing the problems they
had in trying to secure IDs for themselves or family members. Some of
them have yet to be successful.

"I cannot express the amount of time, energy and frustration it
required" to get a license for her mother, Debra Crawford testified.

Crawford's mother, Bettye Jones, was the lead plaintiff in one of the cases before the court Monday. Jones died in October 2012.

Jones was born in Tennessee and lived much of her life in Cleveland,
Ohio. She moved to Brookfield in 2011 to be closer to family after her
husband died.

She had to make multiple trips to a Wisconsin Division of Motor
Vehicles office before she could get a driver's license last year
because she did not have a birth certificate. Getting the license cost
her more than $100 and took about 40 hours over several months, Crawford
testified.

Crawford and others who testified Monday were questioned only briefly
during cross examination by attorneys for the state. But in opening
statements, Kawski stressed state officials have made exceptions in
unique circumstances to accommodate voters who had difficulty acquiring
IDs.

The state has a "legitimate and important interest" in preventing
voter fraud and ensuring the public believes elections are conducted
fairly, Kawski said.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs countered there is no evidence of
in-person voter impersonation, the only type of fraud that would be
prevented by an ID requirement
.

They put their focus Monday on the stories of people such as Alice
Weddle of Milwaukee, who has never had a driver's license or state ID
card and wasn't issued a birth certificate because she was born at home
in Mississippi.

Also testifying was Eddie Holloway Jr., who hasn't been able to get a
Wisconsin ID since moving to Milwaukee from Decatur, Ill., because the
name on his birth certificate differs from the one on his Illinois
driver's license. One says Eddie Junior Holloway and the other says
Eddie Lee Holloway Jr.

"The lady said that with the birth certificate and the ID that means I
had two identities, (that) I'm not the same person," Holloway said in
describing a visit to a clerk at a Wisconsin DMV office.

He tried to amend his birth certificate and get a new Illinois
license so he could eventually get a Wisconsin license, but his efforts
were unsuccessful after multiple trips to Decatur and Springfield, Ill.
He spent $180 for a bus ticket to Decatur; the trip took seven hours one
way.

Those suing contend the burden of getting an ID for people such as
Holloway are so significant as to amount to a violation of the Voting
Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection
under the law
.

"This is a case about voter suppression intended to prevent people from voting," attorney John Ulin told the court.

Those suing include Cross Lutheran Church, labor unions, the American
Civil Liberties Union and the Wisconsin chapter of the League of United
Latin American Citizens.

The case is being heard by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman, a former
Democratic state senator known for authoring the state's open records
law.

* * *

Wisconsin was one of several states to approve voter ID laws after
the 2010 elections that swept Republicans into office across the
country. Wisconsin's law and many of the others are more restrictive
than Indiana's law, setting up a new round of litigation nationally.

Lawsuits are pending in Pennsylvania, Texas and North Carolina, and
higher courts are expected to ultimately resolve what kind of ID
requirements are allowable
.

One difference between Wisconsin's law and Indiana's concerns those
unable to get identification. In Indiana, people who can't get IDs can
sign sworn statements and still vote. In Wisconsin, there is no such
system.

Wisconsin makes state IDs available for voting for free, but some voters
find they still have to pay fees for birth certificates or other
documents necessary to qualify for the free IDs. That amounts to an
unconstitutional poll tax, opponents of the law say.

* * *

In all there are four lawsuits in Wisconsin over the voter ID
requirement. Two of those were filed in federal court in Milwaukee and
are being considered in the joint trial that began Monday.

The other two cases were filed in state court. Two different Dane
County judges struck down the voter ID law last year, but one of the
rulings was overturned on appeal. The other case is now before the
Waukesha-based District 2 Court of Appeals, which will hear arguments
next month.

Wisconsin's voter ID law was in effect for one low-turnout primary in
February 2012, but was invalidated by the Dane County judges soon
afterward and has not been in place since.

Wisconsin would have to overcome all four lawsuits to put the ID requirement back in place.

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