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Friday, April 12, 2024

Judge David Flanagan's ruling good for Wisconsin voters


After 15 months of seemingly incessant political turmoil, Wisconsin politics has again been turned on its head.

On Tuesday, Dane County Judge David Flanagan issued a temporary injunction against portions of 2011 Wisconsin Act 23, better known as the Voter ID Law.

Flanagan ruled it was likely the plaintiffs—the Milwaukee NAACP and Milwaukee-based immigration rights group Voces de la Frontera—would win the trial scheduled for mid-April. He also concluded irreparable harm would be done if the law were enforced until the trial date, since the spring elections, including the Republican presidential primary and other local contests, will be held before then.

In his ruling, Flanagan cited the testimony of UW-Madison political science professor Ken Mayer, who said there are over 220,000 people in Wisconsin who are constitutionally eligible to vote (Wis. Const. art. III § 1) but cannot because of this new law.

Flanagan defined this data as reliable and a “legally significant proportion of Wisconsin’s electorate,” and later wrote, “any statute that denies a qualified elector the right to vote is unconstitutional and void.”

This board is pleased with the ruling, although we do have some reservations.

Since the ruling was handed down Tuesday, it has been revealed that Flanagan signed the petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker. Republicans have been crying foul, and they have justification to do so. Flanagan’s impartiality in judgment can be questioned. However, it is our opinion that the legal and precedential basis of Flanagan’s ruling is sound, even to those of us without law degrees.

This decision is only temporary, and since Wisconsin Republicans have filed complaints with the state’s Judicial Commission, it cannot be guaranteed to stand until the April elections.

It has been the position of this board that the Voter ID Law, from its outset, was designed to intentionally disenfranchise voters. The groups mostly affected by the mandatory photo ID requirement are the poor, senior citizens and students, both out-of-state and in-staters who are away from their home precincts. In our minds, it is not coincidental that the majority of these demographics tend to vote Democratic.

State Republicans’ argument in favor of the measure has been to maintain the integrity of Wisconsin elections by making sure the voter is the same person whom they identify to be. A noble goal, but there is one problem: This type of fraud has not been a widespread, nor even a negligible, problem for the state. The handful of recent cases involving voter fraud have consisted of ineligible electors casting ballots or people voting absentee and then showing up at the polls. The Voter ID law is not a solution to either problem. It is a lonely solution without a problem.

Undoubtedly, if this decision stands, it will help Democrats in what is sure to be a turbulent 2012 election cycle.

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Republicans: You will have your day in court. Although you have reasonable complaints about the manner in which this case has been adjudicated, the Wisconsin Constitution will win out over your blatantly wrong law.

And to Democrats: Before you claim rhetorical and political victory, we say stop. This is larger than party. This is a victory—albeit a temporary one—for the citizens of Wisconsin and for justice.

We just hope it stays that way.

What do you think of Judge David Flanagan’s ruling on the Voter ID Law? Please send all letters and feedback to

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