Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen: State's voter ID law must be reinstated

2012-08-24T05:45:00Z Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen: State's voter ID law must be reinstatedJ.B. VAN HOLLEN | Wisconsin attorney general

Since I first became attorney general, I have spoken to and heard from tens of thousands of people on a variety of subjects. If these contacts are any indication of what matters to the people of Wisconsin, election integrity is at the top of the list. At the Department of Justice, we’ve accomplished a great deal with respect to election integrity, including the creation of a statewide elections fraud task force and the investigation and prosecution of multiple election law violations.

Throughout the past year, the battle for election integrity has focused on Wisconsin’s new voter ID law. The law, which took effect on June 9, 2011, is simple: Qualified voters who appear at the polls must present proper photo identification to prove that they are who they say they are. Before voter ID, a person could merely state a name and then vote without verifying his or her identity.

To me, and to the large majority of people who come into contact with me, the need to present photo identification in order to vote is a common sense way to deter illegal votes and create confidence in the outcomes of our elections. The U.S. Supreme Court agrees. Just four years ago, it upheld the constitutionality of an Indiana voter ID law, which provided the model for Wisconsin’s law.

Earlier this year, on Feb. 21, the nonpartisan statewide spring elections were conducted, without any major incidents, under Wisconsin’s new voter ID law. Since then, the law has been enjoined by the Dane County Circuit Court in two separate lawsuits. Two federal cases also are pending.

The Legislature has the prerogative (and obligation) to regulate the conduct of elections, so long as it does so consistently with the federal and state constitutions. My first duty as attorney general is to uphold and defend the laws of this state, including election laws. I firmly believe Wisconsin’s voter ID law is constitutional, that it protects, rather than impedes, the right to vote, and that it must be defended aggressively. Our democracy suffers an irreparable harm every time an election occurs under processes that differ from what the Legislature has constitutionally prescribed. That is why earlier this year my office asked the state’s appellate courts for extraordinary relief to stay the lower courts’ rulings, one of which was only a temporary injunction at that time.

While the Wisconsin Supreme Court declined to accept the voter ID cases before the state’s presidential primary and general recall elections, it can still act before the general election in November. Therefore, we continue to pursue every legal avenue to have the cases heard in an expeditious manner.

The lower court actions are now completed, the full trial records have been prepared for appellate court review, and appellate proceedings have now reached a stage where I am able to ask the Supreme Court to hear these cases directly. So, on Aug. 21, the first day on which I was permitted to move to bypass the Court of Appeals, I asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to assert jurisdiction over the state voter ID cases and to restore the law before this fall’s election.

Many people are tremendously frustrated that a Circuit Court judge can countermand the will of the people by enjoining a law. Others support the lower court decisions to enjoin the law. I believe that many on both sides agree that this is a tremendously significant issue that should be decided by the state’s highest court before we elect our next president. Circuit Court orders have prevented the voter ID law from being applied in the past four statewide elections, including a historical recall election. I have respectfully asked the Supreme Court to expedite its review of these cases so that it may consider the merits before a fifth election occurs by means other than those prescribed by law.

J.B. Van Hollen is attorney general of Wisconsin.

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(10) Comments

  1. Fartinthewind
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    Fartinthewind - August 25, 2012 9:40 pm
    You truly are the master of convoluted logic kbp.
  2. Fartinthewind
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    Fartinthewind - August 25, 2012 9:37 pm
    Get a grip kbp>

    Two judges rule it unconstitutional and now the walker administration is appealing it and you have the stones to say it's now the left that is so zealously enamored with holding on to the issue. Now that's convoluted logic.
  3. KenyanBornPrez
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    KenyanBornPrez - August 25, 2012 12:40 am
    Isn't is a hypocritical viewpoint to on one hand, want more transparency & accountability in government by demanding Tommy T release his own private tax returns.
    Yet in the same breath, want less transparency & accountability in our government voting laws, by not ensuring people are who they say they are?

  4. Dode
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    Dode - August 24, 2012 10:14 pm
    Even a first year law student, if they read the state constitution, could see voter ID is allowed, even required. How did 2 Dane Co judges ever get elected to office without the ability to read law? I guess it must be the intelligence level of the electorate.
  5. trilliumlady
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    trilliumlady - August 24, 2012 3:09 pm
    KenyanBornPrez is a birther. Consider the source.
  6. KenyanBornPrez
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    KenyanBornPrez - August 24, 2012 1:55 pm
    You sound like Kevin Bacon at the end of Animal House.

    "ALL IS WELL!!!! ...ALL IS WELL!!!"

    Why don't you go ask Former Sen. Van Wanggard from Racine if voter fraud is an apparition. Where do you think the term "early & often" came from?
  7. KenyanBornPrez
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    KenyanBornPrez - August 24, 2012 1:34 pm
    It's just AMAZING that the left is so zealously enamored with holding on to this issue. What's the big deal about carding people at a polling center? Unless you are illegaly voting ( which the goons at Voces dela Frontera & the AFL-CIO, et alia promote ) this should be a total non issue.

    Maybe I should try to go vote at the next UAW or local union meeting without a union ID card. How far do you think that would go?

    I know...let's start making people who vote, dip a finger into a jar of non-toxic indelible purple ink, just like they do in Iraqi national elections. No more cloud of a question about possible vote fraud, and think of all the money we'll save on those silly "I VOTED TODAY" stickers.
  8. gbp
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    gbp - August 24, 2012 1:29 pm
    JB what you are really saying is that a circuit judge is countermanding the will of the Republicans whose only desire is to suppress the voters that have a right to vote in this State. Get those voices out of your head - there is no voter fraud!!
  9. RichardSRussell
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    RichardSRussell - August 24, 2012 11:29 am
    THIS is what's at the top of the list of topics of conversation you have with the people you hang out with? Imaginary voter fraud by imaginary cheaters?
    Man, you need to get out more.
  10. McGarnagle
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    McGarnagle - August 24, 2012 10:14 am
    You disingenuous prig. You talked to 10000+ people, and the top issue that came from those lengthy discussions was the integrity of elections? Really? Particularly as there has never been a statistically significant amount of voter fraud in Wisconsin elections? An imaginary problem was at the top of the list to fix, really? This isn't rigging the system immediately prior to a presidential election in a swing state, no sir. This is fixing the #1 concern of the people of Wisconsin. Your feigned indignation at a court "countermand[ing] the will of the people would be a trifle more believable if you yourself did not run crying to the courts every time a law didn't fit your myopic vision for your legacy.

    Pointing to the lack of fraud in the 2/21 elections as somehow proving that the new regime was a success is like banging rocks together, noting that you didn't see any unicorns whilst banging the rocks, and then attributing the lack of unicorns to the magical rocks.

    I'm certain that there are many that are frustrated with these darn "activist judges". Many were frustrated following Brown v. Board of Ed as well. How dare they thwart the will of the majority to enforce the rights of the minority. Many people are also tremendously frustrated that a meat puppet legislature can wrench their state into conforming with a bought and paid for agenda, pushed through states nationwide, to serve the national interests of a morally bankrupt party. They may also be equally frustrated at the more that $1,000,000 of taxpayer money you spent defending the childish way in which the state was redistricted. They are also likely confused, as you were an active member of the lawsuit that sought to have Obamacare declared unconstitutional, attempting to countermand the "will of the people" via judicial override.

    Taken together, it seems clear that no one in the state has worked harder than you, to make it as difficult as possible for the poor and the marginal to exercise their constitutional rights; and you paid for their repression with their own money. Brilliant. Well done.
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