MILWAUKEE (CN) - Wisconsin's Voter ID Law, "one of the strictest and most severe voter identification laws in the nation," discriminates against minorities, voters, a church and a union claim in Federal Court.
The plaintiffs say Wisconsin Act 23 (of 2011), discriminates against blacks and Latinos, in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
"For a variety of reasons, this law will disproportionately injure African-American and Latino voters, who are much less likely than other members of the electorate to possess the required forms of identification and also face disproportionately greater burdens in obtaining such identification. As a result, African-Americans and Latinos are far more likely than other Wisconsin citizens to have their right to vote denied or abridged by Act 23," the complaint states.
It adds: "Racially polarized voting in Wisconsin has only exacerbated the adverse affects of such discrimination against African-American and Latino voters."
Plaintiffs include Bettye Jones, a 77-year-old African-American who says she lacks "any of the forms of identification required by Act 23 in order to vote," including a certified birth certificate and a driver's license; the League of United Latin American Citizens of Wisconsin (LULAC); Cross Lutheran Church; the Milwaukee Area Labor Council AFL-CIO; and the Wisconsin League of Young Voters Education Fund.
Named as defendants are the five judges on the state's Government Accountability Board, which oversees election, and its general counsel and the administrator of its Elections Division.
Act 23 requires voters to present specified forms of current or recently expired, government-issued photo identification. Commonly held forms of identification such as state or federal employee IDs, veterans' cards, most college and university identification cards, and out-of-state driver's licenses are not allowed.
The plaintiffs say that African-Americans and Latinos are "less likely than other members of the electorate to be able to secure one of the required forms of identification because of financial, logistical, and other hurdles that prevent them from securing the required forms of ID."
The Voting Rights Act requires that "[n]o voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State ... in a manner which results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race, color, or in contravention of the guarantees set forth in section 4(f)(2) [42 U.S.C. § 1973b(f)(2)], as provided in subsection (b). 42 U.S.C. § 1983." (Brackets in complaint.)
This is the fourth court challenge of Wisconsin's Voter ID law.
Plaintiff Jones, who has voted regularly since the 1950s, was born at home in Tennessee and never had a birth certificate recorded. She says she worked as a civil rights activist for the Voting Rights Act, but "has been and will continue to be prevented from casting a ballot that is counted in any Wisconsin election." She says tried to get a photo ID that would satisfy Act 23, but cannot.
This is the first lawsuit of the four that does not include Gov. Scott Walker as a defendant.
The plaintiffs say that before Act 23, "voting in Wisconsin has been relatively easy and generally equally accessible to all registered voters." They claim that claims of voter fraud by advocates of Act 23, and claims that it will increase confidence in the voting process, are unfounded. They say, "there is scant evidence, at best, of in-person voter fraud of the type that the new law purports to prevent. Nor does anyone credibly contend that voters actually lack confidence in the outcome of Wisconsin elections because of in-person voter fraud."
Act 23 took effect for the spring primary on Feb. 21. Unless enjoined, they will apply to the April 3 spring elections and presidential preference primary; to the Aug. 14 partisan primary; to the Nov. 6 general election; and to all other special and recall elections conducted in Wisconsin.
The plaintiff's lead counsel is Charles Curtis Jr. with Arnold & Porter, of Madison.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.