On December 16th, Voces de la Frontera held a joint press conference with the Milwaukee Chapter of the NAACP to announce their lawsuit challenging the state's new Voter ID law. Voces released a statement saying, "The photo ID requirement is a repressive law aimed at deterring Latino from coming to the polls." They added, "The Wisconsin Constitution guarantees all citizens and Wisconsin residents the right to vote and we intend to jealously protect that right to vote."
Before we discuss the two basic positions for and against Voter ID, we will give a preliminary background concerning recent events. Upon the passage of Wisconsin's Voter ID law, several groups generally associated with the political left such as the ACLU, the League of Women Voters, and the NAACP had alleged that the new law violates Wisconsin's Constitution that protects the right to vote. Surely, these groups face an uphill battle, but can they win?
There are two basic (non-legal) views on Voter ID: the liberal view and the conservative view. The liberal view can be summed up stating that Voter ID laws, by virtue of adding more regulatory controls, unconstitutionally restrict the right of certain populations to vote. More specifically, such laws not only deter minority voters, but were specifically designed to do so.
Of course, conservatives don't see it that way. To conservatives, the right to vote is so primal that fraudulent votes undermine the electorate's right to have a government by and for the people. So important is this right that our ballot process should be guarded from the hazard of those who wish to exploit the deficiencies of our election law.
Both sides make valid points, so much so that even the U.S. Supreme Court had toiled over their conclusion in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board - a lawsuit filed against Indiana over their Voter ID law.
Voces de la Frontera, an exceedingly partisan immigrant rights group, joined the NAACP in a lawsuit against Wisconsin's Voter ID law. They alleged - without a scintilla of evidence - that Wisconsin's new Voter ID law aims to deter Latinos from coming to the polls. Well, let's take a look at their claim.
The first problem is epistemological. Voces doesn't know what Republican lawmakers were thinking when they crafted the law. And knowledge is necessary to justify the claim that Republican lawmakers had a repressive intent.
The second problem is that the Voter ID law is simply too new to know with certainty that it would deter Latinos from participating in elections. For instance, six years after Indiana's Voter ID law, not a single person came forward saying it had repressed their vote. But then again, deterring a vote and repressing a vote are not the same thing. A sale at Macy's can deter someone from voting, but it doesn't repress someone's constitutional right to vote.
As with other Voter ID lawsuits, the courts will have to decide between two democratic virtues. Will they side with the left that more restrictions depress voter turnout depriving the underprivileged of a constitutional right, or will they side with the right that more voter controls protect the elector from the type of fraudulent behavior that would nullify legitimate votes.
In the case of Indiana, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld their Voter ID law partly because the plaintiffs could not provide evidence of widespread voter suppression. The majority opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court stated that only when state laws impose severe and unjust burdens on the public's right to vote should the court intervene to apply heightened scrutiny to the law.
Voces de la Frontera has charged that Wisconsin's new Voter ID law aims to deter Latinos from the polls, but this is not the case for Latinos or anyone else. Voces is sounding the drum on what they imagine to be a racial issue. Instead, the new Voter ID law will protect the right of Latino voters not to have their votes cancelled by fraudulent voting practices.
Voces de la Frontera also claims that Wisconsin's Voter ID law is repressive. To repress the right to vote means to stop - usually by force - someone from casting a ballot. However, the new law doesn't stop ballot casting, but merely adds safeguards to make it more difficult for defrauders to steal elections, especially those won by narrow margins.
Voces de la Frontera claims the state constitution protects the right of citizens to vote. This is correct, but the state also has a duty to ensure - to the best of their ability - that every vote counts. And when people vote illegally, legitimate votes are muted. Latinos don't need partisan groups like Voces de la Frontera playing the race card at times when race is immaterial. This is for the simple fact that when race becomes a legitimate political issue, the public will be less inclined to listen.