This column presents facts regarding the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Wisconsin State Constitution, and various other documents in reference to modern topics. Mark hopes to encourage interest in those works so that others can consider whether our government is practicing within its constitutional limits. In the last category, he may indicate his opinion. Mark is a resident of New Berlin. Readers are encouraged to visit the following sites for more information on the United States Constitution and Thomas Jefferson's views on politics and government.
Wisconsin's controversial voter identification law violates the state constitution by creating a new class of ineligible voters, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Dane County Circuit Court.
Unlike lawsuits in other states challenging similar voter ID laws, the lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin focused on the law's compliance with the state constitution instead of the U.S. Constitution, attorney Lester Pines said.
"The Wisconsin Constitution only allows the legislature to exclude ... two named classes from voting — felons and people ruled incompetent," Pines said in a statement. "The new law creates a third class of citizens who may not vote — people who do not have ID."
The lawsuit relies on an unusual legal argument that the Legislature can only enact laws that are enumerated in the state constitution, said Barry Burden, a UW-Madison political science professor and expert on elections. The U.S. Constitution includes an "elastic clause" that allows Congress to pass such laws, but Wisconsin's does not.
"It could have implications on other policy areas," Burden said.
In addition to allowing felons and those deemed incompetent to be barred from voting, the state constitution allows for voting laws that define residency, provide for voter registration and absentee voting, and extend voting rights to certain groups with voter approval.
In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled an Indiana photo ID law didn't violate the U.S. Constitution. In a separate suit brought by the League of Women Voters of Indianapolis, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled the law did not violate the state's constitution.
Wisconsin State Constitution
ARTICLE III. SUFFRAGE.
SECTION 1. [Electors.] Every United States citizen age 18 or older who is a resident of an election district in this state is a qualified elector of that district.
SECTION 2. [Implementation.] Laws may be enacted:
(1) Defining residency.
(2) Providing for registration of electors.
(3) Providing for absentee voting.
(4) Excluding from the right of suffrage persons:
(a) Convicted of a felony, unless restored to civil rights.
(b) Adjudged by a court to be incompetent or partially incompetent, unless the judgment specifies that the person is capable of understanding the objective of the elective process or the judgment is set aside.
(5) Subject to ratification by the people at a general election, extending the right ofsuffrage to additional classes.
SECTION 3. [Secret ballot.] All votes shall be by secret ballot.
We the People:
Requiring more-credible proof of existing qualifications (US citizenship and residency in an election district in this state) is not an additional qualification. This is a weak and desperate delay tactic.
I commend the Wisconsin’s State Legislators who wrote the strong photo ID legislation. However to adequately protect legitimate voters from disenfranchisement by fraud, we need comprehensive reform.