Constitutional Law and Civil Rights

State Net Capitol Journal Constitutional Rights Updates: States Keep Identifying Voter ID Requirements

WI SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS STATE'S VOTER ID LAW: Wisconsin's Supreme Court upheld the state's voter ID law in a pair of cases, but only after tweaking the law to bring it in line with the state Constitution in one of them.

Under the terms of Wisconsin's voter ID law, prospective voters who don't have proper identification can obtain free ID cards for voting from the state. But a certified copy of a birth certificate — which costs $20 — is needed to do so, and the state Constitution bars any law requiring a voter to pay a fee to a government agency in order to exercise his or her right to vote.

So the court's majority crafted a "saving construction" giving the state's Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) the discretion to issue a voter ID without requiring a birth certificate or other documentation.

"As the (U.S.) Supreme Court has explained, it is best to 'limit the solution to the problem' rather than enjoining the application of an entire statute due to a limited flaw," the majority maintained.

But the majority's decisions in the two cases — 4-3 in one, [enhanced version available to subscribers], and 5-2 in the other, [enhanced version available to subscribers], — drew plenty of criticism, including from Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

"Today the court follows not James Madison — for whom Wisconsin's capital city is named — but rather Jim Crow — the name typically used to refer to repressive laws used to restrict rights, including the right to vote, of African-Americans," she wrote in her dissent in one case.

Madison attorney Lester Pines, who represented the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin in one of the cases, faulted the majority's saving construction, suggesting it was no solution to the problem.

"I am confounded by that, by the saving construction, because there are no standards for how to apply it," he said. "I find it to be unworkable and it's going to lead to more litigation." (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL)

POLITICS IN BRIEF: VIRGINIA's State Board of Elections decided last week that prospective voters will have to present a current photo ID or one that has expired within the past year in order to cast a ballot. The Board had approved a definition of "valid" photo ID in early June that did not stipulate such an expiration date (WASHINGTON POST). • About 186,000 NEW MEXICO residents are being sent postcards by the Secretary of State's Office asking them to update their voter registration information. If the postcards are returned as undeliverable and the addressees don't vote within the next two years or update their address information, they could be removed from the state's voter rolls in 2017 (ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL).

FL CONVENES SPECIAL REDISTRICTING SESSION: Florida lawmakers convened last Thursday for a rare summer special session to carry out a court-ordered fix to the state's U.S. congressional redistricting map. Last month, Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled that the state's congressional remap "made a mockery" of a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2010, prohibiting legislators from drawing districts to protect incumbents.

Lewis gave lawmakers until Aug. 15 to repair two districts, held by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown (D) and Dan Webster (R). He said he expects lawmakers to make Brown's expansive district more compact, while maintaining the ability of its African American voters to elect a candidate of their choice, and to remove an "appendage" in Webster's district giving Republicans an advantage.

The session was scheduled to last a week, but lawmakers said they expected to finish their work by late Monday (8/11) or early Tuesday (8/12). (MIAMI HERALD, REUTERS).

— Compiled by KOREY CLARK

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