Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial Board | The reality show known as "Voter ID" has had more plot twists than a "Real Housewives" episode.
Good. If allowed to stand, this burdensome, unnecessary law likely would have prevented some of the state's residents from casting their ballots. And given the short window to educate voters and the fact that absentee balloting already has begun in the state, implementation for this cycle was a remarkably bad idea. The law was a recipe for confusion at polling places during an already contentious election season.
This isn't the final word. The Supreme Court's action merely vacated a federal appeals court ruling that was issued Monday when the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago declared the law constitutional. Now the court must decide whether to take the case. If the Supreme Court decides to do so, it's anyone's guess how the court will rule. If it decides not to take the case, then Wisconsin may be stuck with a law that helps to disenfranchise some of its citizens. Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented from Thursday's ruling.
For now, Wisconsin's voter ID law is blocked — and hopefully will not be in force next month for the election.
We oppose voter ID because we think it's a solution in search of a problem. Voter fraud is exceedingly rare, and what fraud there is would not be stopped by photo identification. Voting is a substantial right of citizenship that should not be infringed, and yet that is exactly what voter ID does for certain prospective voters.
We were disappointed by Judge Frank Easterbrook's reasoning in the federal appeals court decision this week. Easterbrook got it exactly backward.
Even if voter impersonation is rare, he wrote, voter ID "deters fraud (so that a low frequency stays low); it promotes accurate record keeping (so that people who have moved after the date of registration do not vote in the wrong precinct); it promotes voter confidence.
"If the public thinks that photo ID makes elections cleaner, then people are more likely to vote or, if they stay home, to place more confidence in the outcomes."
Actually, with voter ID, it's more likely that fewer people will vote — especially those who don't have identification. Many of them are prone to vote for Democrats, which explains why the other party pushed so hard for this law.
But despite the court's decision, we still think it's prudent for prospective voters to understand the law even if it is not in effect for now.
The state Government Accountability Board, which monitors elections, has an excellent website —bringit.wisconsin.gov — that explains everything a voter needs to know about the voter ID law and how to obtain identification. In addition, the Journal Sentinel's Patrick Marley recently published a piece answering common questions about the law. It can be found at JSOnline: on.jsonl.in/WIvoterID
We won't try to predict how this reality show will end. But we do know what role you can play: You can voice your opinion by voting. Please do so on Nov. 4.