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One Wisconsin Institute, Inc. v. Thomsen

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

July 29, 2016

ONE WISCONSIN INSTITUTE, INC., CITIZEN ACTION OF WISCONSIN EDUCATION FUND, INC., RENEE M. GAGNER, ANITA JOHNSON, CODY R. NELSON, JENNIFER S. TASSE, SCOTT T. TRINDL, MICHAEL R. WILDER, JOHNNY M. RANDLE, DAVID WALKER, DAVID APONTE, and CASSANDRA M. SILAS, Plaintiffs,
v.
MARK L. THOMSEN, ANN S. JACOBS, BEVERLY R. GILL, JULIE M. GLANCEY, STEVE KING, DON M. MILLS, MICHAEL HAAS, MARK GOTTLIEB, and KRISTINA BOARDMAN, all in their official capacities, Defendants.

          FINDINGS OF FACT & CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

          JAMES D. PETERSON, District Judge

         Mrs. Smith has lived in Milwaukee since 2003.[1] She was born at home, in Missouri, in 1916. In her long life she has survived two husbands, and she has left many of the typical traces of her life in public records. But, like many older African Americans born in the South, she does not have a birth certificate or other documents that would definitively prove her date and place of birth. After Wisconsin’s voter ID law took effect, she needed a photo ID to vote. So she entered the ID Petition Process (IDPP) at the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to get a Wisconsin Id. DMV employees were able to find Mrs. Smith’s record in the 1930 census, but despite their sustained efforts, they could not link Mrs. Smith to a Missouri birth record, so they did not issue her a Wisconsin Id. She is unquestionably a qualified Wisconsin elector, and yet she could not vote in 2016. Because she was born in the South, barely 50 years after slavery, her story is particularly compelling. But it is not unique: Mrs. Smith is one of about 100 qualified electors who tried to but could not obtain a Wisconsin ID for the April 2016 primary.

         Wisconsin’s voter ID law is part of 2011 Wis. Act 23, enacted the year after Wisconsin Republicans won the governorship and majorities in both houses of the legislature. Act 23 was the first of eight laws enacted over the next four years that transformed Wisconsin’s election system. Plaintiffs in this case challenge the voter ID law, the IDPP, and more than a dozen other provisions in these new laws, none of which make voting easier for anyone. Plaintiffs contend that the new voting requirements and restrictions were driven by partisan objectives rather than by any legitimate concern for election integrity, that these laws unduly burden the right to vote, and that they discriminate against minorities, Democrats, and the young. Plaintiffs contend that the new election laws violate the First, Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Twenty-Sixth Amendments to the Constitution, and § 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

         This case was tried to the court in May. Over nine extended days, the court heard the testimony of 45 live witnesses, including six experts, with additional witnesses presented by deposition. The parties submitted lengthy post-trial briefs, and the court heard closing arguments on June 30. The opinion that follows is the court’s verdict. It sets out in detail the facts that the court finds and the legal conclusions that the court draws from those facts. Because of the large number of claims asserted in this case, and the volume of evidence submitted, the opinion is necessarily long, and few readers will endure to the end. But I will try, in a few pages of introduction, to explain succinctly the court’s essential holdings and the reasons for them.

         I start with a word about my role. It is not the job of a federal judge to decide whether a state’s laws are wise, and I certainly do not have free-floating authority to rewrite Wisconsin’s election laws. My task here is the more limited one of pointing out where Wisconsin’s election laws cross constitutional boundaries. The Constitution leaves important decisions about election administration to the states. But election laws inevitably bear on the fundamental right to vote, so constitutional principles come into play. The standards that I must apply to plaintiffs’ claims require me to examine carefully the purposes behind these laws, and sometimes to draw inferences about the motives of the lawmakers who enacted them. I conclude that some of these laws cannot stand.

         Wisconsin’s voter ID law has been challenged as unconstitutional before, in both federal and state court. In the federal case, Frank v. Walker, the Seventh Circuit held that Wisconsin’s voter ID law is similar, in all the ways that matter, to Indiana’s voter ID law, which the United States Supreme Court upheld in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board. The important takeaways from Frank and Crawford are: (1) voter ID laws protect the integrity of elections and thereby engender confidence in the electoral process; (2) the vast majority of citizens have qualifying photo IDs, or could get one with reasonable effort; and (3) even if some people would have trouble getting an ID, and even if those people tend to be minorities, voter ID laws are not facially unconstitutional. I am bound to follow Frank and Crawford, so plaintiffs’ effort to get me to toss out the whole voter ID law fails.

         If it were within my purview, I would reevaluate Frank and Crawford, but not because I would necessarily reach a different conclusion. A well-conceived and carefully implemented voter ID law can protect the integrity of elections without unduly impeding participation in elections. But the rationale of these cases should be reexamined. The evidence in this case casts doubt on the notion that voter ID laws foster integrity and confidence. The Wisconsin experience demonstrates that a preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement, which undermine rather than enhance confidence in elections, particularly in minority communities. To put it bluntly, Wisconsin’s strict version of voter ID law is a cure worse than the disease. But I must follow Frank and Crawford and reject plaintiffs’ facial challenge to the law as a whole.

         The most pointed problem with Wisconsin’s voter ID law is that it lacks a functioning safety net for qualified electors who cannot get a voter ID with reasonable effort. The IDPP is supposed to be this safety net, but as Mrs. Smith’s story illustrates, the IDPP is pretty much a disaster. It disenfranchised about 100 qualified electors-the vast majority of whom were African American or Latino-who should have been given IDs to vote in the April 2016 primary. But the problem is deeper than that: even voters who succeed in the IDPP manage to get an ID only after surmounting severe burdens. If the petitioner lacks a birth certificate and does not have one of the usual alternatives to a birth certificate, on average, it takes five communications with the DMV after the initial application to get an Id. I conclude that the IDPP is unconstitutional and needs to be reformed or replaced. Because time is short with the fall elections approaching, I will issue an injunction targeted to the constitutional deficiencies that I identify.

         Judge Lynn Adelman for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin has also concluded that the IDPP is likely unconstitutional, and he has issued a preliminary injunction requiring Wisconsin to institute an affidavit procedure. This procedure would allow an elector without an ID to vote by signing an affidavit stating that he or she is a qualified elector but could not get a photo Id. Judge Adelman’s injunction provides one type of safety net. But plaintiffs have not asked me to impose that solution, and I will not. The state has already issued an emergency rule under which those who are in the IDPP will get receipts valid for voting. Although that is not a complete or permanent solution, it blunts the harshest effects of the IDPP. I will also order the state to publicize that anyone who enters the IDPP will promptly get a receipt valid for voting. To address this problem over the longer term, I will order the state to reform the IDPP to meet certain standards, leaving it to the state to determine how best to cure its constitutional problems. I take this approach because it respects the state’s decision to have a strict voter ID law rather than an affidavit system. But Wisconsin may adopt a strict voter ID system only if that system has a well-functioning safety net, as both the Seventh Circuit and the Wisconsin Supreme Court have held.

         The heart of the opinion considers whether each of the other challenged provisions unduly burdens the right to vote, in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. This analysis proceeds under what is known as the Anderson-Burdick framework, which sets out a three-step analysis. First, I determine the extent of the burden imposed by the challenged provision. Second, I evaluate the interest that the state offers to justify that burden. Third, I judge whether the interest justifies the burden. Certain of Wisconsin’s election laws fail Anderson-Burdick review. For reasons explained in the opinion, I conclude that the state may not enforce:

• most of the state-imposed limitations on the time and location for in-person absentee voting (although the state may set a uniform rule disallowing in-person absentee voting on the Monday before elections);
• the requirement that “dorm lists” to be used as proof of residence include citizenship information; . the 28-day durational residency requirement;
• the prohibition on distributing absentee ballots by fax or email; and
• the bar on using expired but otherwise qualifying student IDs.

         The purported justifications for these laws do not justify the burdens they impose.

         Plaintiffs also contend that the challenged laws intentionally discriminate on the basis of race and age. This is a serious charge against Wisconsin public officials. I reject most of it, applying the framework set out by the Supreme Court in Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corporation. But applying that same framework, I find that 2013 Wis. Act 146, restricting hours for in-person absentee voting, intentionally discriminates on the basis of race. I reach this conclusion because I am persuaded that this law was specifically targeted to curtail voting in Milwaukee without any other legitimate purpose. The legislature’s immediate goal was to achieve a partisan objective, but the means of achieving that objective was to suppress the reliably Democratic vote of Milwaukee’s African Americans. Thus, I conclude that the limits on in-person absentee voting imposed by Act 146 fail under the Fifteenth Amendment, as well as under the Anderson-Burdick analysis.

         In sum, Wisconsin has the authority to regulate its elections to preserve their integrity, and a voter ID requirement can be part of a well-conceived election system. But, as explained in the pages that follow, parts of Wisconsin’s election regime fail to comply with the constitutional requirement that its elections remain fair and equally open to all qualified electors.

         One last point: I do not intend to disrupt the August 6, 2016 election. My decision and the injunction will have no effect on that election.

         Contents

         Facts ........................................................................................................................................ 8

         A. The challenged provisions ............................................................................................... 9

         B. Parties and procedural history ...................................................................................... 11

         Analysis ................................................................................................................................. 12

         A. Standing ........................................................................................................................ 13

         B. Facial challenges to Wisconsin’s voter ID law .............................................................. 18

         1. Facial relief because of intentional discrimination ...................................................... 22

         2. Facial relief because the IDPP has failed ..................................................................... 23

         C. Intentional discrimination ............................................................................................ 29

         1. Race discrimination ...................................................................................................... 29

         2. Age discrimination ........................................................................................................ 45

         D. Partisan fencing claim ................................................................................................... 49

         E. First and Fourteenth Amendment claims for undue burdens on the right to vote ....... 53

         1. Limiting in-person absentee voting .............................................................................. 55

         2. Requiring documentary proof of residence and eliminating corroboration............... 63

         3. Changing how students can use “dorm lists” to register ............................................ 67

         4. Eliminating statewide SRDs and eliminating SRDs and registration locations at high schools ............................................................................................................... 69

         5. Preempting Madison’s landlord ordinance .................................................................. 72

         6. Increasing the durational residency requirement ........................................................ 74

         7. Establishing a zone for election observers ................................................................... 79

         8. Eliminating straight-ticket voting ................................................................................ 82

         9. Prohibiting clerks from sending absentee ballots by fax or email .............................. 84

         10. Limiting when clerks can return absentee ballots to voters........................................ 87

         11. The IDPP ....................................................................................................................... 89

         12. Cumulative effect .......................................................................................................... 91

         F. Voting Rights Act claims ............................................................................................... 93

         1. Disparate burdens ......................................................................................................... 94

         2. Caused by or linked to social and historical conditions ........................................... 105

         G. Fourteenth Amendment claims for disparate treatment of voters .............................. 111

         Conclusion and Remedies ..................................................................................................... 115

         Order ................................................................................................................................... 118

         FACTS

         Although extensive evidence has been presented in this case, material factual disputes few and quite circumscribed. The parties sharply dispute plaintiffs’ allegations that any of the challenged laws were motivated by improper purposes, particularly intentional race and age discrimination. The parties also dispute the effect of the challenged laws on voter turnout, and whether these effects are felt more heavily by minorities and other groups of voters. But much is undisputed.

         The parties have stipulated to a set of background facts, most of which describe the challenged provisions and how they operate. See Dkt. 184. The court adopts these facts and recounts them below, along with other facts about Wisconsin’s election system before the challenged provisions went into effect. The court also adopts the facts found by Judge Adelman concerning the history and operation of the IDPP, which he based substantially on the evidence presented in this case. Frank v. Walker, No. 11-cv-1128, 2016 WL 3948068 (E.D. Wis. July 19, 2016). The court will incorporate the rest of its factual findings in the analysis section of this opinion.

         Historically, Wisconsin has had a well-respected election system, and the state has consistently had turnout rates among the highest in the country. Presidential elections were close in Wisconsin: the 2000 and 2004 elections were decided by less than one-half of one percentage point. In 2008, however, President Obama won Wisconsin by almost 14 percentage points. Two years later, Republicans took control of both houses of the state legislature, and voters elected a Republican governor. Since then, Wisconsin has implemented a series of election reforms. These laws covered almost every aspect of voting: registration, absentee voting, photo identification, and election-day mechanics.

         A. The challenged provisions

         On May 25, 2011, Wisconsin enacted 2011 Wis. Act 23. That legislation made the following changes to Wisconsin election law:

• It imposed a voter ID requirement.
• It reduced the window of time during which municipalities could offer in-person absentee voting from a period of as much as 30 days that ended on the day before election day to a period of 12 days that ended on the Friday before election day.
• It eliminated “corroboration” as a means of proving residence for the purpose of registering to vote.[2]
• It mandated that any “dorm list” provided to a municipal clerk to be used in connection with college IDs to prove residence for the purpose of registering to vote include a certification that the students on the dorm list were United States citizens.
• It increased the in-state durational residency requirement for voting for offices other than president and vice president from 10 days to 28 days before an election and required individuals who moved within Wisconsin later than 28 days before an election to vote in their previous wards or election districts.
• It eliminated straight-ticket voting on official ballots.
• It eliminated the authority of the Government Accountability Board (GAB) to appoint special registration deputies (SRDs) who could register voters on a statewide basis.

         On November 16, 2011, Wisconsin enacted 2011 Wis. Act 75, which prohibited municipal clerks from faxing or emailing absentee ballots to absentee voters other than overseas and military voters.

         On April 6, 2012, Wisconsin enacted 2011 Wis. Act 227, which prohibited municipal clerks from returning an absentee ballot to an elector unless the ballot was spoiled or damaged, had an improperly completed certificate, or had no certificate.

         Also on April 6, 2012, Wisconsin enacted 2011 Wis. Act 240, which eliminated the requirements that SRDs be appointed at public high schools; that, in certain circumstances, SRDs be appointed at or sent to private high schools and tribal schools; and that voter-registration applications from enrolled students and members of a high school’s staff be accepted at that high school.

         In August 2012, the GAB directed election officials to accept electronic versions of documents that could be used to prove residence for the purpose of registering to vote.

         On March 20, 2013, Senate Bill 91 was introduced in the Wisconsin State Senate. This bill would have permitted municipalities to open multiple in-person absentee voting locations (under existing law, municipalities were limited to only one location). The bill failed to pass.

         On December 12, 2013, Wisconsin enacted 2013 Wis. Act 76. This legislation had the effect of overturning a city ordinance in Madison that required landlords to provide voter-registration forms to new tenants.

         On March 27, 2014, Wisconsin enacted 2013 Wis. Act 146, which reduced the window during which municipalities could offer in-person absentee voting. This law eliminated the option of offering in-person absentee voting on weekends and on weekdays before 8 a.m. or after 7 p.m.

         On April 2, 2014, Wisconsin enacted 2013 Wis. Act 177, which required that observation areas at polling places be placed between three and eight feet from the location where voters signed in and obtained their ballots and from the location where voters registered to vote.

         Also on April 2, 2014, Wisconsin enacted 2013 Wis. Act 182, which required all voters, other than statutory overseas and military voters, to provide documentary proof of residence when registering to vote. Before the passage of this legislation, the requirement that a voter provide documentary proof of residence when registering to vote applied only to those who registered after the third Wednesday preceding (i.e., 20 days before) an election.

         B. Parties and procedural history

         The plaintiffs in this case include two organizations and several individuals. One Wisconsin Institute, Inc. is a nonprofit corporation with a mission “to advance progressive values, ideas, and policies through strategic research and sophisticated communications.” Dkt. 141, ¶ 4. Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund, Inc. is also a nonprofit corporation focused on pursuing social and economic justice. The individual plaintiffs are Renee Gagner, Anita Johnson, Cody Nelson, Jennifer Tasse, Scott Trindl, Michael Wilder, Johnny Randle, David Walker, David Aponte, and Cassandra Silas. They all allege that the challenged provisions injure their rights to vote, register to vote, register others to vote, or vote for Democratic candidates.

         The initial defendants in this case were the members of the GAB and two of its officers. Plaintiffs have added and removed some defendants along the way, and the list now includes: Mark Thomsen, Ann Jacobs, Beverly Gill, Julie Glancey, Steve King, and Don Mills, the members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission; Michael Haas, the administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission; Mark Gottlieb, the secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT); and Kristina Boardman, the administrator of the DMV. Plaintiffs have sued all defendants in their official capacities.

         Plaintiffs filed this suit in May 2015, alleging that the challenged provisions were unconstitutional, violated the Voting Rights Act, and resulted from intentional discrimination by the Wisconsin legislature. The court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ challenge to the voter ID law, as well as some of their Equal Protection challenges to other provisions. Dkt. 66. But the court later permitted plaintiffs to partially reinstate their claims regarding the voter ID law, based on evidence that defendants produced during discovery. Dkt. 139. A few months later, the court substantially denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment, Dkt. 185, and the case proceeded to trial.

         ANALYSIS

         The court will structure its analysis as follows:

         First, standing. The court concludes that plaintiffs have standing to challenge each of the provisions at issue, and that the corporation plaintiffs can pursue claims under the Voting Rights Act.

         Second, plaintiffs’ facial challenges to Wisconsin’s voter ID law. This law has already been upheld after extensive litigation in the federal courts. The court concludes that invalidating the entire voter ID law would not be appropriate in this case.

         Third, plaintiffs’ claims of intentional discrimination. Plaintiffs have proven by a preponderance of the evidence that the legislature passed the provisions limiting the hours for in-person absentee voting at least partially with the intent to discriminate against voters on the basis of race. But the court concludes that the remaining provisions do not violate the Fifteenth Amendment. The court also concludes that none of the challenged provisions violate the Twenty-Sixth Amendment.

         Fourth, plaintiffs’ “partisan fencing” claims. Although plaintiffs allege a separate claim for partisan fencing, the court concludes that their constitutional claim provides an adequate framework for analyzing these allegations.

         Fifth, plaintiffs’ First and Fourteenth Amendment claims for unduly burdening the right to vote. The court concludes that some, but not all, of the challenged provisions are unconstitutional because the state’s justifications for them do not outweigh the burdens that they impose.

         Sixth, plaintiffs’ Voting Rights Act claims. The court concludes that one of the challenged provisions violates the Voting Rights Act.

         Seventh, plaintiffs’ Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection claim. The court concludes that defendants have failed to articulate a rational basis for the state’s decision to exclude expired student IDs as acceptable forms of voter ID.

         A. Standing

         The court begins with standing. At summary judgment, the court rejected defendants’ justiciability arguments, including arguments related to standing. Defendants now renew some of these arguments, contending that no plaintiff has standing to challenge the voter ID law. Defendants also contend that plaintiffs lack standing to challenge almost all of the other provisions that are at issue. For plaintiffs’ Voting Rights Act claims, defendants contend that no plaintiff qualifies as an “aggrieved person” able to pursue claims under the act.

         “[T]he ‘irreducible constitutional minimum’ of standing consists of three elements. The plaintiff must have (1) suffered an injury in fact, (2) that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant, and (3) that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.” Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016) (citation omitted), as revised, (May 24, 2016). Defendants contend that plaintiffs have not proven the first of these elements: a cognizable injury in fact. As the parties invoking this court’s jurisdiction, plaintiffs bear the burden of establishing that they have standing. Id. But only one plaintiff needs to have standing to challenge a given provision because the complaint seeks only injunctive relief. Crawford v. Marion Cty. Election Bd., 472 F.3d 949, 951 (7th Cir. 2007), aff’d, 553 U.S. 181 (2008).

         Of the 10 individual plaintiffs in this case, 6 received qualifying IDs from the DMV and 4 received receipts through the IDPP. DX022; PX445. Defendants want to stop there, arguing that none of the individual plaintiffs are harmed by the voter ID law because they all currently have qualifying IDs. But there are several problems with this argument. The most obvious problem is that under the DMV’s current rules, the receipts that four of the individual plaintiffs received will expire after two automatic renewals, which means 180 days after issuance. Although these plaintiffs will be able to vote in the upcoming August and November elections, there is essentially no plan in place for them after they use their two renewals. Without a valid ID, these plaintiffs will not be able to vote. Thus, they have “suffered ‘an invasion of a legally protected interest’ that is ‘concrete and particularized’ and ‘actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.’” Spokeo, 136 S.Ct. at 1548.

         Even setting aside the plaintiffs who will lack acceptable IDs and be unable to vote after the November 2016 election, the voter ID law also injures the remaining individual plaintiffs. At summary judgment, the court concluded that having to present an ID at the polls was a sufficient injury for purposes of conferring Article III standing. Dkt. 185, at 10 (citing Frank v. Walker, 17 F.Supp.3d 837, 866 (E.D. Wis.), rev’d, 768 F.3d 744 (7th Cir. 2014), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 1551 (2015), and Common Cause/Georgia v. Billups, 554 F.3d 1340, 1351-52 (11th Cir. 2009)). The court also concluded that the plaintiffs who have IDs will have to renew them or acquire other forms of identification once their current IDs expire, which would be another injury that confers standing. Id.

         Defendants do not substantively engage these issues; they simply assert that “[t]his Court was wrong when it held that voters who have a qualifying ID have Article III standing to challenge the voter photo ID law.” Dkt. 206, at 13. If defendants want to preserve the issue for appeal, then they have done so. But they have not identified reasons for the court to depart from its earlier conclusion that plaintiffs have standing to challenge the voter ID law.

         As for the other provisions at issue, the corporation plaintiffs have standing to challenge these laws. “An organization may establish an injury to itself sufficient to support standing to challenge a statute or policy by showing that the statute or policy frustrates the organization’s goals and necessitates the expenditure of resources in ways that would not otherwise be required.” 15 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore’s Federal Practice § 101.60[1][f] (3d ed. 2015) (citing Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman, 455 U.S. 363, 379 (1982)); see also Crawford, 472 F.3d at 951 (“[T]he new law injures the Democratic Party by compelling the party to devote resources to getting to the polls those of its supporters who would otherwise be discouraged by the new law from bothering to vote.”). To establish standing, an organization must point “to a ‘concrete and demonstrable injury to its activities, ’ not ‘simply a setback to the organization’s abstract social interests.’” Spann v. Colonial Vill., Inc., 899 F.2d 24, 27 (D.C. Cir. 1990) (alterations omitted) (quoting Havens Realty Corp., 455 U.S. at 379).

         At trial, plaintiffs adduced evidence that One Wisconsin and Citizen Action each devoted money, staff time, and other resources away from their other priorities to educate voters about the new laws. For example, Analiese Eicher, One Wisconsin’s program and development director, testified that she researched all but one of the challenged provisions. Tr. 5p, at 145:12-17.[3] The purpose of this research was to allow One Wisconsin to educate its supporters, its partners, and the press. Id. at 145:18-25. Eicher also testified that had she not been researching the legislation, she would have been working on other programs or initiatives for One Wisconsin. Id. at 147:4-16. Eicher would have been advocating for other voting-related changes, such as automatic voter registration, online registration, and felony reenfranchisement. Id. at 147:18-24. On an organizational level, One Wisconsin developed a website to help voters navigate the registration process in an effort to remediate some of the confusion surrounding the challenged provisions. Id. at 148:7-9, 149:3-8.

         Likewise, Anita Johnson, an individual plaintiff and one of Citizen Action’s community organizers, testified that her job responsibilities have “ballooned” over the last few years as the laws have changed. Tr. 1p, at 4:16-5:1. Her presentations to community groups now take longer, she has been able to register fewer people, and she has stopped working on other issues for Citizen Action to focus exclusively on voting rights. Id. at 5:15-16, 7:20-8:5, 11:7-25, 32:24-33:11.

         Based on this evidence, the court finds that the corporation plaintiffs are not simply redirecting their resources to litigation, which would not be an injury-in-fact that would confer standing. See N.A.A.C.P. v. City of Kyle, 626 F.3d 233, 238 (5th Cir. 2010). Instead, both corporations are devoting resources away from other tasks and toward researching, or educating voters about, the challenged provisions. These expenditures are injuries that give both corporations standing to challenge the provisions at issue in this case because the corporations are counteracting what they perceive to be unlawful practices. Cf. Fla. State Conference of N.A.A.C.P. v. Browning, 522 F.3d 1153, 1166 (11th Cir. 2008).

         Defendants’ final justiciability challenge relates to the Voting Rights Act and whether any plaintiff qualifies as an “aggrieved person” for purposes of bringing suit pursuant to 52 U.S.C. § 10302. The court rejected this challenge at summary judgment, adopting the Eastern District of Wisconsin’s reasoning in Frank and concluding that the corporation plaintiffs could assert claims under the Voting Rights Act. Dkt. 185, at 14-15. Once again, defendants do not substantively confront this analysis. See Dkt. 206, at 15. In fact, the authority on which defendants rely-Roberts v. Wamser, 883 F.2d 617 (8th Cir. 1989)-does not actually support their assertion that corporations cannot file suit under the Voting Rights Act. Roberts involved an unsuccessful political candidate whose alleged injury was the loss of votes that he would have received but for the challenged voting practice. 883 F.2d at 621. The Eighth Circuit held “that an unsuccessful candidate attempting to challenge election results does not have standing under the Voting Rights Act.” Id. But the Eighth Circuit also noted that the candidate was not suing on behalf of others who were unable to protect their own rights, id., which is what the corporation plaintiffs are doing in this case. The court will adhere to its earlier conclusion that One Wisconsin and Citizen Action can pursue claims under the Voting Rights Act.

         B. Facial challenges to Wisconsin’s voter ID law

         Wisconsin’s voter ID law has been through the federal courts before. The Seventh Circuit upheld the law in Frank v. Walker, 768 F.3d 744 (7th Cir. 2014), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 1551 (2015), relying on the Supreme Court’s decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 553 U.S. 181 (2008). Thus, this court will begin its consideration of the merits by addressing plaintiffs’ contention that despite the holdings in Crawford and Frank, Wisconsin’s voter ID law is facially unconstitutional and violates the Voting Rights Act.

         Crawford considered a facial challenge to Indiana’s voter ID law. 553 U.S. at 185. The critical holding in Crawford is that requiring a voter to show a photo ID before voting serves the important governmental interest in ensuring the integrity of elections, particularly by preventing in-person voting fraud, thereby engendering confidence in elections. Id. at 200-03. Crawford also held that securing an Indiana photo ID, which required assembling certain vital documents and going to the DMV to apply for the ID, imposed only modest burdens that were not much greater than the effort ordinarily required to register and vote. Id. at 198. Crawford upheld Indiana’s voter ID law against a facial challenge even though the burdens of the law fell somewhat more heavily on minority voters, and even though some individual voters might not be able to get a photo ID without surmounting more severe burdens.

         In Frank, the Seventh Circuit considered a facial challenge to Wisconsin’s voter ID law. 768 F.3d at 745. The district court had determined that there were factual distinctions between Wisconsin’s law and Indiana’s law: most significantly, that there were many more voters who did not have a qualifying photo ID in Wisconsin, and that those voters tended to be minorities. The Seventh Circuit expressed skepticism about the evidence of how many voters lacked ID, but concluded that, in any case, those distinctions were not material to the facial challenge. The Seventh Circuit held that Wisconsin’s voter ID law was not materially different from the Indiana law at issue in Crawford, and that under Crawford, Wisconsin’s voter ID law was facially constitutional. Id.

         It is hard to deny that a state and its citizens have a truly compelling interest in maintaining election integrity. As the evidence in this case proved once again, voter fraud is rare but not non-existent. The court credits the evidence of plaintiffs’ expert on the subject, Dr. Lorraine C. Minnite, who testified and filed two expert reports. PX039; PX044. But the more compelling evidence comes from Milwaukee County, the one county in the state that has tried to systematically discover and track violations of election law. The county has an assistant district attorney devoted full-time to the job, Bruce Landgraf. Based on Landgraf’s testimony, and on other evidence discussed below, the court finds that impersonation fraud- the type of fraud that voter ID is designed to prevent-is extremely rare. In most elections there are a very few incidents in which impersonation fraud cannot be ruled out. But as Crawford and Frank held, despite rarity with which election fraud occurs, it is nevertheless reasonable for states to take steps to prevent it.

         Any system that requires voters to get a credential will necessarily impose a burden on them. But if the burden is a modest one, and if the credential meaningfully fosters integrity, then the constitution is satisfied. Under Crawford and Frank, collecting the necessary records and making a trip to the DMV to get an ID is a modest burden in light of the state interest that it serves. Those cases probably reflected an unduly rosy view of DMV field offices, but the evidence in this case confirms, yet again, that the vast majority of Wisconsin citizens already have the necessary Id. And most citizens who do not have an ID can get one with relative ease.

         This court is, of course, bound to follow Crawford and Frank, which defendants contend doom plaintiffs’ facial challenge to Wisconsin’s voter ID law. Defendants are correct. But Crawford and Frank deserve reappraisal. The court is skeptical that voter ID laws engender confidence in elections, which is one of the important governmental purposes that courts have used to sustain the constitutionality of those laws.

         The evidence in this case showed that portions of Wisconsin’s population, especially those who live in minority communities, perceive voter ID laws as a means of suppressing voters. This means that they undermine rather than enhance confidence in our electoral system. Good national research suggests that voter ID laws suppress turnout, and that they have a small, but demonstrable, disparate effect on minority groups. See PX072. At trial, testimony of African American community leaders confirmed that voter ID laws engender acute resentment in minority communities. See, e.g., Tr. 1p, at 131:21-24. And some of the Wisconsin legislators who supported voter ID laws believed that they would have partisan effects. Their willingness to publically tout the partisan impact of those laws deepens the resentment and undermines belief in electoral fairness.

         Underlying the philosophical debate is a fundamentally factual question: do voter ID laws protect the integrity of elections? According to the Frank court, Crawford definitively answered this question. 768 F.3d at 750 (“[W]hether a photo ID requirement promotes public confidence in the electoral system is a ‘legislative fact’-a proposition about the state of the world, as opposed to a proposition about these litigants or about a single state.”). The primary integrity-based justification offered for voter ID laws is that they prevent voter fraud. But that seems to be a dubious proposition. A voter ID requirement addresses only certain types of election malfeasance; specifically, impersonation fraud, by which one person poses as another and votes under his or her name. This happens from time to time by accident, when a voter signs the poll book on the wrong line. That produces some frustration for voters and poll workers, but it does not represent a fundamental threat to the integrity of elections because it does not happen that often and because everyone ultimately gets to vote.

         The real fear is multiple voting: that a committed but unethical partisan could cast many votes for his or her candidate under different names. Yet there is utterly no evidence that this is a systematic problem, or even a common occurrence in Wisconsin or anywhere in the United States. PX039, at 2, 35. True, it is not unheard of: in one well-known case, a Milwaukee man was so committed to Governor Walker’s re-election that he voted 14 times. Tr. 8a, at 184:3-24. He was charged with and convicted of voter fraud (even without the benefits of the voter ID law). Proponents of voter ID would say that there could be other incidents of voter fraud that have gone undetected. But there is no evidence to support that hypothesis. As many have pointed out, multiple voting is not a very effective way of influencing an election, and few people would risk the penalties to do so. The bottom line is that impersonation fraud is a truly isolated phenomenon that has not posed a significant threat to the integrity of Wisconsin’s elections.

         The same cannot be said for Wisconsin’s voter ID law, which has so far been implemented in a rigorously strict form: the only way to vote is to secure a state-approved Id. As part of Act 23, Wisconsin enacted a statute allowing citizens to receive free IDs to vote. But it was not until the eve of trial in this case that the state started paying for the underlying documents (e.g., birth certificates) that citizens needed to submit to obtain these free IDs. Even now, citizens who lack vital records can obtain free IDs only after navigating the complicated IDPP. Wisconsin’s strict implementation of its voter ID law has disenfranchised more citizens than have ever been shown to have committed impersonation fraud.

         In theory, the well-designed and easy-to-use registration and voting system imagined in Crawford and Frank facilitates public confidence without eroding participation in elections. But in practice, Wisconsin’s system bears little resemblance to that ideal.

         So where does that leave plaintiffs’ facial challenge to the voter ID law? Plaintiffs contend that two aspects of the factual record of this case distinguish it from Crawford and Frank, paving the way to a fresh facial challenge.

         1. Facial relief because of intentional discrimination

         First, plaintiffs assert that Wisconsin’s voter ID law was motivated, at least in part, by racial animus. This is a serious allegation against the public officials of Wisconsin, but the court cannot easily dismiss it here. There is manifest racial disparity in the operation of the IDPP: of the 61 actual denials that the DMV had issued as of April 2016, 85 percent were to African Americans or Latinos. PX475. And government witnesses concede that 60 of these denials were issued to qualified electors entitled to vote, but who could not meet the IDPP’s criteria for a state-issued Id. See Tr. 6, at 75:24-76:17 (DMV administrator); Tr. 8p, at 191:2-5 (investigations unit employee). The legislative history suggests that some of the provisions challenged in this case were specifically intended to curtail voting in Milwaukee, where 40 percent of the population is African American and 17.3 percent is Latino (approximately two-thirds of the state’s minority population). Both sides agree that if the court finds that the Wisconsin legislature enacted a voter ID law for the at least partially with the intent to discriminate on the basis of race, then the law is constitutionally unsound and cannot stand. The court will address this issue below, in discussing the intentional discrimination claims that plaintiffs have alleged in this case.

         2. Facial relief because the IDPP has failed

         The second factual distinction concerns the IDPP, which plaintiffs contend imposes severe and discriminatory burdens on some qualified Wisconsin electors. The IDPP was the subject of a great deal of testimony at trial, and it has become a dominant issue in this case. Plaintiffs contend that the IDPP demonstrates Wisconsin’s intentional race discrimination, is unconstitutional under the Anderson-Burdick framework, and violates the Voting Rights Act.[4]And because this constitutionally required safety net is not working, plaintiffs argue that the court must strike down the entire voter ID law.

         The context for, and history of, Wisconsin’s effort to implement the IDPP began with Act 23, passed in 2011. Besides establishing voter ID, this legislation created Wis.Stat. § 343.50(5)(a)3., which provided that a voter could get a Wisconsin ID from the DMV for free, if the voter requested it for voting. But voters who did not have their birth certificates had to get copies, which typically required paying a fee to a government agency. Thus, getting a free ID was not really free.

         Many thought that the fees that voters had to pay for copies of their vital records were tantamount to an unconstitutional poll tax. Indeed, that was the conclusion that the Wisconsin Supreme Court reached in Milwaukee Branch of NAACP v. Walker, which relied on Crawford to uphold Wisconsin’s voter ID law against a facial challenge. 2014 WI 98, ¶ 7, 357 Wis.2d 469, 851 N.W.2d 262, reconsideration dismissed, 856 N.W.2d 177 (2014). The state supreme court applied a savings construction to the Wisconsin Administrative Code to provide that the required vital documents were “unavailable” to a prospective voter if he or she would have to pay a fee to get them. Id. ¶¶ 66-71. Thus, a person who had to pay to get a birth certificate could use the DMV’s special petition process in Wis. Admin. Code DOT § 102.15 (i.e., the IDPP) to ask for a free ID on the grounds that a birth certificate was unavailable. As the Seventh Circuit recognized in Frank, the availability of a truly free ID provided a necessary safety net that preserved the constitutionality of Wisconsin’s voter ID law. 768 F.3d at 747. But since then, effectuating the savings construction to provide free photo IDs to voters who lacked the requisite vital records has proven to be difficult for the DMV, to say the least.

         For purposes of this opinion, the court does not need to retrace every detail of DOT’s response to NAACP v. Walker; plaintiffs have set out the timeline in a chart appended to their brief. Dkt. 207, at 253-57. In summary, the DOT instituted an emergency rule on September 11, 2014 (the day before the appellate argument in Frank). PX456. The emergency rule changed the definition of “unavailable, ” following the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s direction, and it reorganized the IDPP into a new subsection of Wisconsin’s Administrative Code, DOT § 102.15(5m). The emergency rule also created a procedure that, in essence, required the DMV to track down the birth record of any person who requested a free voter ID, if the person did not have a copy of their birth record. The procedure was complicated because the process required interaction between various divisions of the DMV, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and agencies of other states. PX472. The main task of investigating and evaluating petitions fell to the DMV’s Compliance and Fraud Unit (CAFU), which, as its name implies, has staff members whose normal duties are to investigate allegations of fraud.

         Many people successfully navigated the IDPP. Out of 1, 389 petitions for free IDs, the DVM issued IDs to 1, 132 petitioners. Of the petitioners who applied, 487 had to go through “adjudication, ” which included a full investigation by CAFU[5] and a final decision from Jim Miller, the head of the DMV’s Bureau of Field Services (a different unit from CAFU). 230 of the petitioners who went through adjudication received IDs; 257 petitioners did not. DMV records indicate that 98 of the petitioners who did not receive IDs after adjudication cancelled their petitions.[6]

         The petitioners in suspended or denied status were the ones who faced serious roadblocks in the IDPP: their birth records did not exist, or those records did not perfectly match their names or other aspects of their identities, such as Social Security records. The problems arose because the DMV evaluated IDPP petitions for voting IDs by using the same identification standards that it applied to applications for Wisconsin driver licenses and standard IDs. To acquire any one of these products from the DMV, a person must prove both their identity and their legal presence in the United States. Thus, the DMV refused to issue IDs to IDPP petitioners until CAFU could confirm their identities with a match to a valid birth record, or to some equivalently secure alternative. Some petitioners simply could not meet the DMV’s standard of proof, and so they could not obtain free IDs.

         The lack of a valid birth record correlated strikingly, yet predictably, with minority status. The evidence at trial demonstrated that Puerto Rico, Cook County, Illinois, and states with a history of de jure segregation have systematic deficiencies in their vital records systems. Voters born in those places were commonly unable to confirm their identities under the DMV’s standards. For example, many African American residents in Wisconsin were born in Cook County or in southern states. PX479. And many of the state’s Latino residents were born in Puerto Rico. Id. As of April 2016, more than half of the petitioners who had entered the IDPP were born in Illinois, Mississippi, or a southern state that had a history of de jure segregation. PX478.

         In June 2015, the DMV begin issuing denials to IDPP petitioners. By the time of trial in this case, the DMV had issued 61 denials, 53 of which were to minority petitioners.[7]Again, with one exception, the DMV had no reason to doubt that those who were denied a photo ID were Wisconsin residents, United States citizens, at least 18 years of age, and qualified to vote. Tr. 6, at 75:24-76:17. The sole exception was a Latina woman who mistakenly believed that she had been naturalized.

         Since the state first implemented the IDPP, another related problem has prevented petitioners from successfully navigating the process. Until recently, the state had not appropriated any funds to pay for petitioners’ vital records. Although no petitioner was asked to pay for any vital record, the state did not acquire any vital record for which a fee was required. The result was that some petitioners fell into limbo: the DMV did not deny their petitions, but the petitioners could not confirm their identities. These petitioners ended up in “suspend” status, with the DMV essentially waiting either for the petitioner to turn up new records, or for enough time to pass that the DMV could officially deny the petition.

         On March 7, 2016, DMV officials and state legal counsel met to discuss the state’s failure to pay for vital records. At some point after the meeting, the DMV received funds, and during the second week of trial in this case, the DMV made its first payment to acquire a vital record for a petitioner. Tr. 7p, at 111:2-17.

         On May 10, 2016, a week before the trial in this case began, the governor approved another emergency rule modifying the IDPP. PX452. The new rule acknowledged that emergency rulemaking was required to ensure that qualified electors could get a photo ID with reasonable effort in time for the next elections:

This emergency rulemaking [was] also necessary to preserve the integrity of the verification process utilized by the Department in issuing an identification card while still preserving the public welfare by ensuring that qualified applicants who may not be able to obtain acceptable photographic identification for voting purposes with reasonable effort will be able to obtain photographic identification before the next scheduled elections.

PX453, at 14. The rule ameliorated some of the deficiencies of the IDPP: it established procedures and standards for evaluating petitions; it provided a means to surmount common impediments such as minor mismatches between a birth record and other aspects of a petitioner’s identity; and it established “more likely than not” as the standard for evaluating evidence of identity, birthdate, and citizenship.[8] Perhaps most important, the emergency rule required the DMV to issue petitioners temporary identification card receipts that were valid for voting purposes while their petitions were pending.

         Defendants contend that the latest emergency rule fixes the problems with the IDPP, and that because all petitioners still in the process have a receipt valid for voting, the dispute over the IDPP is moot. The court disagrees for two reasons.

         First, the receipts issued under the emergency rule are not permanent. Those who hold them will be able to vote only so long as the receipts are renewed. But qualified electors are entitled to vote as a matter of constitutional right, not merely by the grace of the executive branch of the state government. The state has promised to renew the receipts for 180 days so that they will be good through the November 2016 election. But the state has been utterly silent on what happens after that. As things stand now, after these receipts expire, petitioners will once again find themselves in IDPP limbo. Thus, at best, the emergency rule gives the state time to devise a new solution (but the court has not seen any evidence to suggest that the state is actually working on a solution).

         Second, even under the emergency rule, petitioners will have to convince the DMV to exercise its discretion to issue them IDs. Although the emergency rule guides that discretion and specifies that the applicable standard of proof is “more likely than not, ” the process is still far more arduous than collecting documents and making a trip to the DMV, as envisioned in Crawford and Frank. Being investigated by CAFU, even under the newest iteration of Wisconsin’s emergency rule, still makes it unnecessarily difficult to obtain an ID.

         The court finds that IDPP petitions were decided by a standard that was at least as rigorous as “clear and convincing proof.” For now, suffice it to say that the court agrees that the IDPP is a wretched failure: it has disenfranchised a number of citizens who are unquestionably qualified to vote, and these disenfranchised citizens are overwhelmingly African American and Latino. The IDPP violates the constitutional rights of those who must use it, and so Wisconsin must therefore replace or substantially reform the process. But that does not mean that the voter ID law is unconstitutional in all of its applications. Because a targeted remedy can cure the constitutional flaws of the IDPP (and thus, the entire voter ID law), facial relief is not necessary or appropriate.

         Crawford and Frank effectively foreclose invalidating Wisconsin’s voter ID law outright. Based on the evidence presented at trial, the court has some misgivings about whether the law actually promotes confidence and integrity. But precedent is precedent, and so the court will deny plaintiffs’ request to invalidate the entire voter ID regime.

         C. Intentional discrimination

         Plaintiffs assert claims under the Fifteenth and Twenty-Sixth Amendments, alleging intentional discrimination on the basis of race and on the basis of age. The legal standards for evaluating these claims are substantially identical, and most of the pertinent evidence for each claim is the same. With the exception of Wisconsin’s restriction on the number of hours that municipal clerks can offer in-person absentee voting, the court concludes that plaintiffs have failed to prove their claims of intentional discrimination.

         1. Race discrimination

         Plaintiffs contend that the Wisconsin legislature passed many of the challenged provisions in violation of the Fifteenth Amendment. To succeed on these claims, plaintiffs must demonstrate that the legislature intentionally discriminated against voters because of their race. Rogers v. Lodge, 458 U.S. 613, 617 (1982); Village of Arlington Heights v. Metro. Hous. Dev. Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 265 (1977). Discriminatory animus does not need to be the only reason for Wisconsin’s new laws, or even the primary reason, but “official action will not be held unconstitutional solely because it results in a racially disproportionate impact.” Arlington Heights, 429 U.S. at 264-65. Nor do plaintiffs have to prove discriminatory intent with direct evidence of racial animus. Rogers, 458 U.S. at 618.

         Whether a law is motivated by racial discrimination is a difficult factual determination, guided by sparse precedent. Arlington Heights provides the essential template: “Determining whether invidious discriminatory purpose was a motivating factor demands a sensitive inquiry into such circumstantial and direct evidence of intent as may be available.” 429 U.S. at 266. The starting point of the analysis is whether the law has had a disparate impact. But unless there is a startling pattern, inexplicable on grounds other than race, impact alone is not determinative. In that case, other evidence must support a finding of discrimination. This evidence can include the historical background and context of the law and the legislative history, especially any contemporaneous statements by the decision-making body. See Id. at 266-68.

         Before turning to the Arlington Heights analysis, the court considers defendants’ evidentiary objection to one of plaintiffs’ experts, historian Allan Lichtman, PhD. At trial, Dr. Lichtman testified that several of the challenged provisions were motivated by intentional race discrimination. See Tr. 6, at 237:5-18. Defendants contend that Dr. Lichtman’s testimony invaded the province of the court by offering an opinion on an ultimate issue in the case, and that it was therefore not a proper topic for expert analysis. The court agrees. Dr. Lichtman provided some useful factual background to the legislation at issue- background that defendants did not dispute-but the court will not otherwise adopt his analysis or opinions about the specific issue of the legislature’s intent in passing the challenged provisions.

         With these considerations in mind, the court turns to the merits of plaintiffs’ intentional race discrimination claim. The court will analyze this claim first in the context of Wisconsin’s voter ID law, then in the context of the ...


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