By Alana Semuels April 29, 2014, 4:38 p.m.
A federal judge struck down a Wisconsin voter ID law as unconstitutional because it imposed an unfair burden on the poor and minorities, a move that could set a precedent for other voting rights cases to be decided this election year.
The Wisconsin decision is especially significant because it came in federal court and because Adelman relied on Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in his decision. Previously, voting rights advocates had used Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to argue election-fairness cases, but the Supreme Court voided that option in its Shelby vs. Holder decision, said Jessica Levinson, a professor of election law at Loyola Law School. The Wisconsin case shows that using Section 2, which bans rules that make it more difficult for minorities to participate in the political process, can be effective.
“For proponents of voter ID laws, this is somewhat encouraging,” Levinson said. “The courts are finding that evidence of fraud is not there, and that these laws place disproportionate burdens on certain segments of the population.”