Two federal court decisions reached this week could have sweepimg impact on Wisconsin’s voters and elections, according to a University of California law professor.
On Thursday, a federal judge dismissed parts of a challenge to the state’s voter ID. In a separate case, a panel of federal judges allowed a lawsuit about the state’s redistricting plan to continue.
University of California Law Professor Rick Hasen said U.S. District Judge James Peterson rejected the Voting Rights Act challenge to preserve it for a potential future appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but that he did leave some room for challenges on not accepting certain types of identification.
"He also left open the possibility of challenges base on the idea that this was a law that was intended to discriminate against Democrats … and that’s not a theory that the courts had looked at the last time this law was challenged," said Hasen, who also authors the Election Law Blog.
He said all the states where these new strict voter ID laws pass on party lines, and it’s well understood that the extent these laws will have on voter turnout will likely affect groups that tend to vote Democratic.
"Even Judge Richard Posner, of the 7th circuit, who had rejected that argument back in 2007 when there was a challenge to Indiana’s law, recently suggested a dissenting opinion in the last round of the Wisconsin voter ID case that is actually the reason that these laws are being passed," said Hasen.
He said it could be possible to put the law on hold for the 2016 election, depending on having enough evidence to suggest that a majority of people who would want this ID, could be unable to get them in time for the next election.
In the redistricting case, Hasen said the Supreme Court justices have repeatedly said there hasn’t been a standard presented yet to determine the constitutionality of taking political party into account, and that the Wisconsin case is trying to come up with that new standard.
"What the three judges said in the opinion yesterday was, there was enough of a theory of a new way of trying to do this that we’re going to let the parties gather evidence and make their case before the court," he said.