Road To The Poll: How The Wisconsin Voter ID Law of 2011 Is Disenfranchising Its Poor, Minority, and Elderly Citizens

Watts, Christopher

The right to vote has been irrefutably established as one of the most treasured and fundamental rights guaranteed to citizens by the United States Constitution, and Wisconsin’s Act 23 (“Act 23”) violates this standard. In May 2011, the Wisconsin legislature passed this act, which mandated that any person attempting to vote in person or via absentee ballot had to present an approved form of government-issued photo identification. In application, Act 23 would fail to satisfy its main goal of preventing voter fraud because, had it not been enjoined in March 2012, the law would not have prevented any of the limited attempts at voter fraud that have already occurred in the state. In the modern era of jurisprudence, the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that this right is so fundamental that any attempt to limit or violate it must be met with an extraordinarily close and careful examination, and any such examination would find Act 23 to be unconstitutional. The process of obtaining a valid form of identification is a great burden for the state’s poor, minority and elderly citizens, and this burden is not met with a necessary and narrowly tailored law sufficient to justify the equal protection injuries inflicted on the voting population. Act 23 also violates the Twenty-Fourth Amendment by not offering a completely free form of identification for indigent citizens, thereby creating a poll tax. Lastly, the Wisconsin Constitution has a complete article on suffrage and on the conditions necessary for changing voting laws, which Act 23 fails to meet, rendering it unconstitutional at both the state and federal levels.

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Columbia Journal of Race and Law

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March 13, 2015