The Seventh Circuit insists that the district court in the Wisconsin ID litigation was too lenient with the option of an affidavit for voters who could not with reasonable effort obtain a qualifying photo ID. So the Court directs that this relief be limited to the class of voters in genuine need, and it is seeking from the court below “objective standards” election officials could use in determining what constitutes “genuine difficulties” in obtaining ID.  To support its position, the Seventh Circuit cites a portion of Crawford, offering this selection:

Yet the Supreme Court held in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 553 U.S. 181, 198 (2008), that “the inconvenience of making a trip to the [department of motor vehicles], gathering the required documents, and posing for a photograph surely does not qualify as a substantial burden on the right to vote, or even represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting.” A given voter’s disagreement with this approach does not show that requiring one trip to a governmental office is unreasonable.

The Seventh Circuit chooses to omit the opening three words of this sentence in Crawford: “For most voters…” In other words, the Supreme Court in Crawford does not say that the inconveniences are minor for all voters, but more generally for most voters. It does not even suggest that the number of voters for whom these inconveniences would be significant are small or trivial in number, only that it is a “limited number” and that “most voters” don’t confront the problem. Crawford suggested that the limited number may include elderly persons born out of state and those economic and unspecified “personal” limitations. 553 U.S. 199.

Voter ID Facts and Motivation: Easterbrook v. Posner

October 16, 2014
posted by Bob Bauer
Judges Easterbrook and Posner square off in their opinions on the Wisconsin voter ID statute and their exchange comes down to two questions: the differences in the design and effects of ID statutes, and the significance of partisan motivation. Frank V. Walker, Nos. 14-2058 & 14-2059 (7th Cir., Oct. 6, 2014). Easterbrook is casual, if not careless, in discussing the differences, and in his treatment more generally of facts. Posner insists on their importance. Easterbrook sweeps aside the question of political motivation, and Posner does not.
Rick Hasen has made an important contribution to the debate about McCutcheon by astutely identifying an issue that had gone mostly unremarked—the Court’s choice to reduce the doctrinal heft of the “appearance of corruption” in step with its narrowed view of “actual corruption.”  With the equation of “actual” corruption with quid pro quo corruption, Rick believes, the concern with appearances had to take up the slack in addressing “the public’s concern that money can skew legislative outcomes.”  Twice in his piece, Rick refers to a “stand-in” function for appearances—a role in standing in for the decimated actual corruption standard that is no longer capable of dealing with the “broader concern about undue influence.”
Category: The Supreme Court

The Kobach Case as Voting Rights Jurisprudence

March 21, 2014
posted by Bob Bauer
Make what you will of Judge Melgren’s analysis of preemption, or the hints of his constitutional stance on the federal-state balance of authority under the Elections Clause—his decision in Kobach v. The United States Election Assistance Commission is a mechanical exercise that leaves the reader without any sense of what this case is about. Kansas and Arizona have not merely made a “determination” of what they need to verify the citizenship of state residents seeking to become voters. The history behind this litigation is more complex, with more history to it, and the court knew it.  It chose, however, to follow example of the Supreme Court and to do as the High Court has done in other cases, like Purcell v. Gonzalez and Crawford v. Marion County, and leave the real world out.
Category: Voting Rights
There is little left to be said about Judge Posner's second thoughts, and his further thoughts about those second thoughts, about his voter ID opinion in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board. No one seems satisfied with his various statements—neither critics or supporters of the "ID" movement, and certainly not the lawyers whom he seemed to fault for failing to fully inform the Court about the consequences of ID statutes like Indiana's. But the frustration directed at him should be tempered, just a little, by this fact: in suggesting that much legal argument before and by the courts is ill-informed about the political process—and thus about the consequences of regulation or deregulation—the Judge has a fair point. And it is a point that applies to legal decision-makers of all kinds—legislators and regulators, as well as judges.