Posted by: JanF | September 29, 2014

Elections Matter — for Future Elections! UPDATED

The ruling by the anti-voter judicial activists on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, the ruling which implemented newly developed and completely untested voter id rules for Wisconsin’s general election on November 4, 2014, will not be reviewed by the full panel.

ACLU Comment on Federal Appeals Court Ruling on Wisconsin Voter ID

CHICAGO — The full Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals today declined to rehear a three-judge panel’s order reinstating Wisconsin’s voter ID law prior to the midterm election. The vote was split evenly, 5-5, meaning the panel’s order stands. Neither the panel nor the full court has yet ruled on the actual merits of the law, which was found unconstitutional by a federal judge in April. The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the law, and petitioned for a full appeals court review following the panel’s order on September 12 allowing the law to take effect. The ACLU presented oral arguments to the panel that day asking the court to uphold the April decision striking down the law as unconstitutional and in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

The following is a statement from Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project:

“Allowing this law to take effect so close to the midterm election is a recipe for chaos, voter confusion, and disenfranchisement. The court could have avoided this pandemonium and given Wisconsin voters a chance to cast their ballots free of obstruction. It failed to do so, and we are evaluating our next step.”

Ten judges … because there is an unfilled vacancy*. Three judges appointed by Democratic presidents plus two appointed by Republicans but whose ideological blinders are not epoxied on, voted to hear the challenge. Five judges chosen for their ideology, paying back their Republican Party masters by disenfranchising those who can’t afford the de facto poll tax, refused. Poll tax? Isn’t that a bit of hyperbole, you ask? No, it is not. Voter ids can only be obtained 8:30 to 4:30, Monday through Friday at designated Department of Motor Vehicle locations and I defy anyone who suggests that getting off work (or getting child care if you are not working) and taking public transportation to the DMV and standing in line for 4 hours is without cost. Judge Adelman saw it for what it was: a way to disenfranchise the poor and the disabled.

Given the ideological split on this court, as seen by the votes on the refusal, the likelihood of prevailing was pretty slim anyway. But is serves to underscore just how important the choice of people to serve lifetime appointments on the federal bench are.

THIS is why we must not let the Senate fall back into Republican hands. THIS is why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s lack of a full understanding of the obstruction of justice planned by Republican Senators was so devastating. Justice was sacrificed on the altar of comity in a political body that includes the discommodious Ted Cruz and a Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, whose sworn goal was to make Barack Obama a one-term president. Who could have predicted that nominations would be slowed or blocked during Barack Obama’s first term? To Harry Reid’s credit, he decided to quit stockpiling gunpowder and returned the Senate to the role of advise and consent rather than obstruct and extort. But the damage was done as nominations from that era continue to languish.

Elections have consequences. We have 7 vacancies at the appellate court level and 50 at the district court level. There is no chance that all of those vacancies can be filled before December 31, 2014 so it is essential that Democrats maintain their majority in the U.S. Senate.

When we vote, we win. And when Democrats win, the chances of fair and honest future elections becomes better.

Oh and by the way, the ACLU matters, too. Donate now: Because freedom can’t protect itself.

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*UPDATE: I discovered what happened to the missing 11th judge at the 7th Circuit: she was sacrificed on the altar of “Senate comity”:

In 2010, President Obama nominated a University of Wisconsin law professor named Victoria Nourse to this vacancy — Nourse was one of four potential nominees suggested to the White House by a nominating commission sponsored by the state’s two senators.

In 2011, newly elected teaparty Republican Senator Ron Johnson (WI), objected to Professor Nourse and declined to return a “blue slip” to Senate Judiciary Chairman, Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

What is this “blue slip” and why would it trump a nonpartisan commission’s recommendations and a presidential nomination based on that recommendation?

For much of the Twentieth Century, [the “blue slip” process] was merely a mechanism home state senators could use to voice their opposition to a nominee, but nominees who were opposed by their home state senator would typically still receive a vote from the full Senate. Leahy, however, is one of only two Senate Judiciary Chairs in American history who has given each home state senator an absolute veto over anyone nominated to a judgeship in their state. Under Leahy’s rule — a rule that Leahy could unilaterally change at any time if he chose to — Johnson’s decision not to return a blue slip on Nourse held up her nomination indefinitely.

In 2012, Professor Nourse requested to have her nomination withdrawn and the seat has been vacant for the last 4 years, denying a fair hearing to cases in Wisconsin and the other states that the 7th Circuit serves.

For Senator Leahy, “Senate comity” trumps “presidential elections have consequences” and, unlike Harry Reid, Leahy has not learned that when you treat Republicans as if they are honorable instead of seditious hacks bent on destroying our democracy, it is justice that loses in the long run. “Thanks”, Senator Leahy. You made it easier for yourself to enjoy Senate cocktail parties while you made it more difficult for people to vote in Wisconsin. Excellent tradeoff!

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