Forty-six members of the Congressional Black Caucus plus a broad coalition of civil rights groups and legal groups representing impacted communities this week filed amici briefs in the Supreme Court urging the justices to hear a case against Wisconsin’s restrictive voter ID law.
In 2011, Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker enacted Act 23, a new law requiring all voters to have government-issued photo IDs. Over the following years, Advancement Project has challenged the law as discriminatory under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. A federal judgeagreed, ruling the law as unconstitutional on the grounds that it disproportionately affected African American and Hispanic residents. However, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s ruling last October, prompting the national civil rights organization to bring their suit to the Supreme Court. The nation’s highest court froze enactment of the law in the November 2014 elections, saying the state was unprepared to implement the law. However, the law will go into effect in future elections if a permanent injunction is not secured.
“Photo voter ID laws significantly impact all voters but especially place burdens on African Americans, Latino Americans, young voters, seniors, women and individuals with disabilities,” said CBC Chairman G. K. Butterfield, D-N.C., speaking on behalf of the 46-member caucus. “Many of us led the fight to end the practice of voter disenfranchisement 50 years ago, and we cannot afford to standby and do nothing while historical advancements in equality and fairness are reversed with laws such as Wisconsin’s discriminatory voting practice which, if allowed, will open the floodgates across the country to silence many American voices by making it increasingly harder for all citizens to vote and have a say in America’s democratic process.”
In addition to the CBC, other groups that filed briefs seeking a Supreme Court hearing included:
Latino Justice PRLDEF, National Council of La Raza, Hispanic National Bar Association, Hispanic Federation, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO),
League of Women Voters, The National Council on Independent Living, OurTime.org, Rock the Vote, Color of Change, The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, The Cyber Privacy Project, The Civil Rights Clinic at Howard Law School and One Wisconsin.
“The Wisconsin voter ID law, like nearly all of the voter ID laws enacted in recent years, does not stand up to scrutiny. The justifications advanced by Wisconsin for Act 23 are lacking, and certainly do not outweigh the impact of the law on hundreds of thousands of voters in Wisconsin,” read the ColorofChange’s brief. “The purpose and effect of Wisconsin’s law, if allowed to become effective, would be to lower the turnout of minority and low-income voters.”
Advancement Project officials agreed, saying while the law’s purported purpose—blocking voter fraud—is based on specious claims, the law’s adverse impact is very real—approximately 300,000 registered Wisconsin voters are at risk of losing their right to vote if this law is not overturned.
“The amici briefs filed highlight the costly burdens that photo voter ID laws impose on African Americans, Latinos, young voters, women and persons with disabilities,” said Katherine Culliton-González, Advancement Project’s senior attorney and director of Voter Protection, in a statement. “They connect the dots between our nation’s vicious history of voter disenfranchisement, and the urgency to fight modern-day tactics that make it harder for people of color to vote. This year, as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act, more communities are raising their voices against Wisconsin’s discriminatory voting law by urging the highest court in our nation to take on this case. We hope the Court will heed their call.”