Wisconsin holds its presidential primary today, the first major election under its voter ID law. The media and voter ID opponents continue to claim that 300,000 Wisconsin citizens lack the identification required to vote. This is the number the district court relied upon to strike down the law in 2014. What the media and voter ID opponents overlook, however, is that the 7th Circuit called that figure “questionable” because it both overestimated the number of citizens without a DMV-issued ID and overlooked other forms of ID acceptable under the law.
The Wisconsin district court opinion is perhaps the most egregious example of a court’s failing to engage in meaningful data analysis of the number of voters who lack a driver’s license or DMV ID card but who may have one of the other photo IDs permitted under a voter ID law. Even a cursory examination would have revealed that a much larger number of Wisconsin voters (almost 1.5 million) possess non-DMV IDs that are valid for voting, including passports, Indian Tribe ID cards,naturalization certificates, and military or reserve military ID cards.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court. In that opinion, Judge Frank Easterbrook criticized the district court’s conclusions as to the supposedly large number of individuals without ID as “questionable.” He added that registered voters without a valid ID were not “disenfranchised,” as claimed by the trial court, and that the total number of voters without a valid ID is not the appropriate measure of the law’s validity anyway.