6 Blistering Quotes From A Conservative Judge About Voter ID Laws

Voting

Election day is around the corner and, as The New York Times notes, “Republican officials and legislators around the country are battling down to the wire to preserve strict and discriminatory new voting laws that could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans.”

U.S. Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner of Chicago issued a scathing dissent in a case concerning Wisconsin earlier this month.

As The Los Angeles Times reports, “Posner’s 30-page dissent, laid out in his typical lucid and direct manner, is as exacting an examination as you’re likely to find of why voter ID laws are corrupt and iniquitous, and why their usual rationale — to combat voter fraud — is a lie.” And this is significant because

Posner, 75, is no wooly-headed liberal, but a card-carrying conservative who was appointed to the circuit bench by Ronald Reagan in 1981. He’s widely regarded as the smartest jurist in the federal judiciary, and was identified in 2000 by Fred Shapiro of Yale Law School as the most-cited legal scholar of all time. (Shapiro’s full list is here.)

Below are some of his more blistering observations in that opinion, as presented by Talking Points Memo. [You can go here for the full Talking Points Memo list of quotes.]

—”As there is no evidence that voter-impersonation fraud is a problem, how can the fact that a legislature says it’s a problem turn it into one? If the Wisconsin legislature says witches are a problem, shall Wisconsin courts be permitted to conduct witch trials?”

—”The authors’ overall assessment is that ‘voter ID laws don’t disenfranchise minorities or reduce minority voting, and in many instances enhance it’ [emphasis added]. In other words, the authors believe that the net effect of these laws is to increase minority voting. Yet if that is true, the opposition to these laws by liberal groups is senseless. If photo ID laws increase minority voting, liberals should rejoice in the laws and conservatives deplore them. Yet it is conservatives who support them and liberals who oppose them. Unless conservatives and liberals are masochists, promoting laws that hurt them, these laws must suppress minority voting and the question then becomes whether there are offsetting social benefits—the evidence is that there are not.”

—”The panel opinion does not discuss the cost of obtaining a photo ID. It assumes the cost is negligible. That’s an easy assumption for federal judges to make, since we are given photo IDs by court security free of charge. And we have upper-middle-class salaries. Not everyone is so fortunate.”

—”The panel opinion states that requiring a photo ID might at least prevent persons who ‘are too young or are not citizens’ from voting. Not so. State-issued IDs are available to noncitizens … — all that’s required is proof of ‘legal presence in the United States[.]’

—”There is only one motivation for imposing burdens on voting that are ostensibly designed to discourage voter-impersonation fraud, if there is no actual danger of such fraud, and that is to discourage voting by persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens.”

—”This implies that the net effect of such requirements is to impede voting by people easily discouraged from voting, most of whom probably lean Democratic.”

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