Secretary of State Delbert and his claque in the media were cruising along self assuredly that the state’s Voter ID was home free from any federal court derailment since the Supreme Court junked a core provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act one year ago.
Then suddenly things began to turn around.
Last week, a federal judge in Wisconsin struck down that state’s Voter ID law. And, in doing so, he provided a pathway for other states to challenge similar laws by circumventing the high court’s butchery of the 1965 act.
The 90-page Voter I.D. ruling, written by Federal District Judge Lynn Adelman of Wisconsin’s Eastern district marked the sixth court action blocking ID voting laws in the past year, each in a Republican-controlled state.
Last year, the Supreme Court had upheld constitutionality of the overall Voting Rights Act, but gutted Section 5, which had required nine states, including Mississippi, to pre-clear any voting changes with the Justice Department.
Adelman’s ruling opens the door to attack any state Voter ID law under the Act’s Section 2 which ordinarily is used in racially-imbalanced redistricting cases. At the same time, he held that the Wisconsin law also violated the 14th aAmendment of the U.S. constitution barring states to abridge a citizen’s right to vote. His constitutional finding puts a new weapon in the quiver of Voter ID opponents.
The federal judge upheld plaintiff’s contention that the Wisconsin law disproportionately impacted racial minorities and economically disadvantaged. “Blacks and Latinos in Wisconsin are disproportionately likely to live in poverty,” he wrote, adding: “individuals who live in poverty are less likely to drive or participate in other activities where photo ID is required (…banking, air travel).” Of course, Mississippi’s proportion of people living in poverty is much higher than in Wisconsin.
Recently columnist Sid Salter applauded Hosemann and his variety of ID instruments acceptable at the polls under Mississippi’s law, ranging from a driver’s license to a U.S. passport (can’t you see black citizens in the Delta standing in line to show their passport?). What the Salter column doesn’t mention is why a Voter ID law was needed. Perhaps Judge Adelman answers it best, declaring: “(the law) will prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes.”