By: Brian Sikma
Late Thursday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court declared that it would not hear arguments in two cases challenging the state’s photo ID law before election day. In an anonymous order the Court said that it was declining the motion of the Attorney General to bypass the appellate courts and take up the photo ID cases in order to reach a final conclusion to the matter soon. If the Court had accepted the motion the justices would have heard oral arguments, read briefs and issued a decision in time to possibly uphold the law and order election officials to check voters’ photo ID before voting in the November election.
The decision for the Court to not take up the cases was decided by a vote of the justices. Four justices would have had to agree to hear the case in order for the seven-member Court to move ahead with its decision-making process. The Court is generally considered to have four conservative leaning members and three liberal leaning members, among the liberals is Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. Justices Michael Gableman, Annette Ziegler, Patience Roggensack and David Prosser round out the Court’s generally conservative majority.
At least one conservative justice decided to postpone consideration of the photo ID law until after the election in order for the Court to reach the decision it handed down today. The Court has come under scrutiny after a series of high-profile rulings and an incident in which liberals fabricated a story that Justice Prosser placed liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley in a chokehold. Prosser was placed on the cautious defense as he tried to move beyond the circus of ethics complaints.
Justice Roggensack faces re-election in April of 2013 and Prosser nearly lost his re-election last year in a fight that saw at least one instance of likely voter fraud committed by out-of-state SEIU activists living at a Glendale, Wisconsin hotel. Prosser was opposed by the SEIU and the photo ID law in question now would have likely prevented the out-of-state residents from voting in his election.
Opponents of photo ID say the law is unnecessary because it is an excessive burden to voters and there are not enough instances of voter fraud in Wisconsin to justify the measure’s existence. The law’s supporters note that voter fraud has happened with disturbing regularity in Wisconsin and many cases go unprosecuted for a lack of evidence that meets the high evidentiary threshold needed to prosecute such a crime.
Numerous cases of voter fraud in Wisconsin were outlined in a brief submitted to the Court by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a public interest law firm.
Last week one state lawmaker called on the Supreme Court to do away with its tradition of keeping secret its votes on whether or not to take up a case. State Rep. David Craig (R) said that the Court should move to make all of its votes public – including procedural votes – in keeping with the spirit of Wisconsin’s open meetings laws and transparency in government tradition. “The Court’s practice of allowing anonymous determinations on which cases are chosen for review flies in the face of Wisconsin’s open government tradition,” Craig wrote.
Craig specifically cited the photo ID cases as a compelling issue with national implications that should move the court to act to make its proceedings public. State Rep. Robin Vos (R) has sounded a similar note about the importance of the photo ID cases, telling Milwaukee talk radio that the law is imperative to protecting the integrity of the November election and the Court should act safeguard it.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R) expressed displeasure at the decision by the Supreme Court vowing, “Despite this setback, I continue to believe that the Voter ID law is constitutional and I will continue the battle to have the law upheld.”
A search late Thursday night on state political news sites for press releases from Democrats commenting on the Court’s decision turned up nothing.