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Wineke: What is conservative about voter ID?

Published On: Apr 30 2014 06:02:57 PM CDT

Federal Judge Lynn Adelman striking down Wisconsin’s voter ID law raised a question you would think lies at the heart of the conservative approach to such laws.

If the reason for voter ID is to prevent voting fraud, Adelman asked, then where is the evidence of the fraud it is supposed to prevent?

In his 90-page ruling striking down the law as being unfair to the poor and to minorities, Adelman looked at and destroyed the arguments posed by Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-led Senate and Legislature.

“The evidence at trial establishes that virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin,” Adelman said. “The defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past.”

However, Adelman said there are an estimated 300,000 Wisconsin residents who don’t have the kinds of identification the law demands.

We don’t know how many of those 300,000 actually vote but, as Adelman said, if there is no known case of fraud, then Voter I.D. laws are sure to prevent more legitimate votes than they are to prevent fraudulent votes.

Adelman might be overruled. The federal courts these days are no friends of the poor or minorities, but I think his ruling does present an interesting challenge to those who support voter ID laws and who consider themselves conservative.

Just what is conservative about a law that forces American citizens to go to the time and expense of obtaining identification cards in order to solve a problem that doesn’t exist?

There was a time when those who called themselves conservative actually believed in limiting the coercive hand of government. It was liberals who presumably went around passing laws to solve nonexistent problems.

Ever since Republicans took control of state governments around the country in 2010, they have thrown conservative principles out the window.

They keep passing laws to limit abortions and keep trying to pass laws that would outlaw some forms of birth control and force women who become pregnant from rapes or incest to bear their rapists’ children.

They use the power of state governments to interfere with the rights of local governments. Want to pass a minimum wage law for Milwaukee? Let’s strip the right of municipalities to do that.

But the voting rights thing is the big one. We all know why our state wants voter ID It’s because the governor and legislators who gained power through the ballot box want to make sure no one can take that power away from them through the ballot box.

That may be good politics, but it sure isn’t conservative.

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