Posted by Brendan Fischer on June 28, 2012

Though evidence suggests laws requiring photo ID at the polls will suppress votes from Democratic constituencies like students and people of color, voter ID supporters have long claimed the laws are merely a nonpartisan, common sense effort to promote "election integrity." But recent developments in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin show that Republicans are counting on voter ID laws to deliver the presidency to Mitt Romney in 2012.

"Voter ID is going to allow Gov. Romney to win"

This week, the House Majority Leader in the Pennsylvania Congress, Rep. Mike Turzai (R), made headlines when he explained the reasoning behind the state's new law requiring certain forms of ID at the polls. Voter ID, he explained bluntly, "is going to allow Gov. (Mitt) Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania."

"This is outrageous, but it confirms why the Republican governor and Republican legislature rammed this bill through into law. Pennsylvania already had sufficient safeguards in place to protect against voter impersonation, but apparently they weren't strict enough to suppress legitimate Democratic voters. This new law could deny tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians their constitutional right to vote -- just for partisan purposes. We need to make voting easier, not harder. This is a matter of basic civil rights," Pennsylvania Rep. Dan Frankel, (D), said in a statement.

Pennsylvania was one of sixteen states to pass voter ID laws since 2010 that impose new burdens on the right to vote, with fifteen of those states passing the laws mostly along party lines. A study from the Brennan Center found approximately 5 million people nationally do not have the state-issued IDs that the new laws require. Many of these laws echo a model Voter ID Act approved by the corporate and legislative members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

GOP Bankrolling Legal Case Reveals Stark Partisan Nature of Voter ID

Wisconsin also passed a restrictive voter ID law last year. Rep. Robin Vos (R), the chairman of ALEC in the state, spearheaded the effort to pass the bill, and it was signed in June by Governor Scott Walker, an ALEC alum. After a Wisconsin court struck down the law as an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, Vos and another legislator sought to intervene in the appeal -- but when asked by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel who was funding their legal fees, they refused to disclose.

Vos, along with Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer (an independent who votes with Republicans), justified their intervention in the suit by alleging they were concerned that "voter fraud" would affect their reelection chances in November. This, despite the fact that in-depth investigations into election fraud in Wisconsin's 2004 and 2008 elections (where no voter ID law was in place) revealed that fraud occurs at a rate of less than one-thousandths of a percent, as CMD has reported. Only two individuals were charged statewide with committing the kind of in-person "voter fraud" that stricter identification requirements might prevent.

After Wisconsin's ethics board advised that accepting free legal services would run afoul of Wisconsin law -- Wisconsin ethics rules prohibit legislators from accepting anything of value that might influence their official judgment -- Vos and Ziegelbauer pulled their names from the case. But Vos still refused to say who had been funding the legal challenge.

On June 27, Republican National Committee (RNC) spokesman Ryan Mahoney confirmed that the RNC had been secretly bankrolling the effort to intervene in the case. The Republican Party's deep interest in seeing voter ID laws upheld is not surprising, given the communities affected by the new voter ID legislation.

An estimated 220,000 eligible voters in Wisconsin do not have the forms of identification required under the voter ID law (but they do have other documents proving their identity and residency). "The registered voters least likely to have the required forms of identification [are] poor people, minority group members with low socio-economic status and students, all constituencies that generally vote for Democrats," said Lester Pines, an attorney representing the League of Women Voters in the challenge to Wisconsin's voter ID law.

"Wisconsin is a battleground state," Pines told CMD in an email. "If through the use of the Wisconsin Voter ID law the Republicans can suppress enough Democratic voters, they stand of chance of winning Wisconsin's electoral votes in November and possibly, thereby, winning the presidency."

The RNC bankrolling this case, and potentially many others, reveals the stark partisan nature of the push for voter ID.

Brendan Fischer

Brendan Fischer is CMD's General Counsel. He graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin Law School.

Comments

The Republicans will use any and every trick that they can think up to put Romney into office. What a tragic thing to happen in this country to keep people from the polls that are qualified to go and voice their opinion. It is unconstitution and I hope our AG takes the proper action to prevent these laws from taking affect and stealing the election AGAI
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I hate to be a spoil sport but the stage is being set for history to repeat itself this fall. Unless by some miracle someone surfaces a states rights arguing point that gives the Justice Department the right to supervise elections within states on the basis that they have replicated a poll tax (which is prohibited by the Constitution and not reserved to the states to make a decision on). Maybe trot out the newly fashionable tax-or-penalty argument? A "voter penalty?"

This is not the Repubs keeping legally qualified people from voting, it is about keeping dead people from voting. Mean old republicans, why can't Aunt Mary vote, she's only been dead since 1969!
I say we go back to the days of the founding fathers, when only land owners were allowed to vote, or at least people who work for a living and have some skin in the game!

While expressing your desire to "go back to the days of the founding fathers," you neglected to mention that the only people who had "skin" in the game, as far as the the founding fathers were concerned, were landowners whose skin was white and whose gender was male.

Only the white landowners have skin in the game?? We _all_ have skin in the game since we are all subject tot he same laws (in theory). Well, as it turns out, the rich are able to skirt the laws, so maybe they shouldn't get to vote since they have less skin in the game. Meanwhile, the lower classes, whose children disproportionally serve in the armed forces, clearly have more skin in the game, so maybe they should get 2 votes.

The original poster actually said "only landowners" only people with "jobs" have skin in the game... rigghhht! The top 20% of this country who have been benefiting from the trillions of dollars of taxpayer handouts for the past two decades... the "job creators" and all their minions... should be the ones voting. Oh wait! They don't have to vote! To them it doesn't really matter... they just buy whatever politician they need to get their agenda across... all this voting nonsense is just fluff. A distraction.
And I am really tired of the "Founding Fathers" chatter.... racist, misogynistic, narrow minded, corporate rich folks. The first colonists in this country were not here for religious reasons, they came for profit. The came here as corporate shareholders - The Virginia Company of London, 1607.
Guess what? We can do better than our forefathers. We are smarter, and we do not need to be held back by arcane and outdated principles. People who support the exclusion of our citizens from the right to vote are no different that the religious zealots that want to return the world to the social rules 6th century. They should grow up.

In study after study on the issue, vote fraud has been found to be virtually non-existent. You know why? Because we ALREADY have protections in place that make this sort of thing unlikely. Not to mention, a stray extra vote or two here or there is not going to affect election outcomes in any significant way (I do NOT condone this behavior in any case, but I don't see it as a major problem that needs dealt with in such a draconian fashion). Only men and whites (who were also land owners, as you mention) could vote originally. Shall we go back to those days? Disenfranchising well over 50% of the population? Because that is really what you are suggesting. Removing the say of "undesirables", whom our country was created to protect and grant freedom to in the first place.

What the notion of voter fraud is (as a basis for arguing the case for voter ID laws) is a fraud in itself, perpetrated by Republicans who think the big lie told often by a loud megaphone will make it true. The erroneously appearing name on the voter rolls has to be known by and used fraudulently by a living person who knows it is an erroneously occurring name. That sequence of events happens so seldom as to be non-existent. In a country that was founded by white supremacists, (and wrote slavery into the Constitution; look it up in Article 1 Section 9), it is no wonder what the objective is among the people (the Tea Party and other right wing extremists) who clamor for "a return to the principles of our founding fathers." Republicans have been trading on the idea of loafers and freeloaders mooching off the landed gentry for generations. I say give it a rest and learn how to live in a pluralist democratic society. Have you heard the news? White people are not going to be the majority demographic for very much longer. Get used to it and get over the plantation mentality.

So in your universe, renters shouldn't be allowed to vote -- even voters with lots of money, who simply choose not to have the hassles of home ownership. Oh wait, you corrected yourself. You said "people who work for a living." And how will we define that? Retired people don't WORK for a living. Mitt Romney doesn't WORK for a living. In other words, the only people you want to be able to vote are those who are JUST LIKE YOU. Grow up.

"This is not the Repubs keeping legally qualified people from voting"
Well of course it is. Haven't you heard Paul Weyrich going on about "We don't want everyone to vote..."? And Rick Scott trying to purge tens of thousands of qualified voters in Florida?
Republicans want wealthy white people, especially older ones, to vote, their demographic. Students and minorities get roadblocks. The integrity of the ballot and voting machines get little scrutiny from Republicans.