First Reactions to Today’s Big Supreme Court Rulings on Act 10, Voter ID and Domestic Partnership Registry

Jul. 31, 2014
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Looks like the conservative majority on the state Supreme Court came out big in favor of Scott Walker’s signature piece of legislation, Act 10. That never seemed to be in doubt. Some members of the conservative majority—namely, Justice David Prosser—were aided by groups that worked with Walker in his alleged criminal scheme to support Act 10 and Republicans in the recalls. 

This is the same court that shredded our state’s open meetings law, holding that state legislators no longer must abide by the same laws that everyone else must follow. That strange ruling allowed the law to be implemented in the first place. So, grain of salt and all that. Still, this ruling will allow Walker to crow about how his reforms are “working,” similar to his boasts about how two judges have said that the second John Doe investigation has no merit. (We’ll let the federal appeals court judges be the judge of that.)

The court also decided that the state’s onerous voter ID law is constitutional. (Yet a federal judge decided just the opposite.) Just glancing at the coverage of this case, I’m sort of puzzled by Justice Pat Roggensack’s direction to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Isn’t that legislating from the bench? You know, the work of an activist judge?

Moving on—the only bright spot for progressives in today’s rulings is that the court found that the state’s domestic partnership registry is constitutional. Since the state’s same-sex marriage ban has been found to be unconstitutional, and is now being appealed by Walker and AG J.B. Van Hollen, we’ll have to see whether or not this ruling means anything in the long run.

Some early reactions from others:


Governor Scott Walker's Reforms Upheld in All Supreme Court Cases


Madison – Today, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld Governor Scott Walker's reforms in both Act 10 and the voter ID law.


Governor Walker released the following statement in response to the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s affirmative rulings on Act 10 and voter ID:


Act 10 has saved Wisconsin taxpayers more than $3 billion.  Today’s ruling is a victory for those hard-working taxpayers.


Voter ID is a common sense reform that protects the integrity of our elections.  People need to have confidence in our electoral process and to know their vote has been properly counted.  We look forward to the same result from the federal court of appeals.


Rep. Barca Statement on Act 10 Ruling


“Wisconsin’s proud history of protecting workers rights is marred by Walker and Republicans’ dismantling of collective bargaining for our public sector workers. Today’s Supreme Court ruling is extremely disappointing for the teachers, nurses, prison guards, and other professionals who serve the public each day.


“Under the new law not even working conditions, much less worker safety, are being bargained. Since Act 10, we have learned that in many cases workers are no longer regularly meeting with management to discuss safety issues, which puts them and those they serve at risk.


“Collective bargaining is vital to securing workers’ rights and helping maintain a strong middle class in Wisconsin and in America. My fellow Democrats and I will continue to fight to protect the middle class and ensure every working family can have a fair shot at economic security.


“Our battle to maintain a middle class continues. From advancing more than two dozen jobs bills to voting to raise the minimum wage to ensuring our citizens have access to affordable health care, we will continue to promote the middle class.”


State Senator Mary Lazich’s Statement about Wisconsin State Supreme Court Decision Upholding 2011 Wisconsin Act 10


“Today’s Wisconsin State Supreme Court ruling upholding 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 provides reassurance to all Wisconsinites that Wisconsin State Government finances are permitted to remain on a stable path.” 


“At the time of a $3.6 billion deficit, Act 10 prevented layoffs, provided job security, put Wisconsin state government’s finances on a stable track, and prevented run-away government and run-away taxation.”


Statement from Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen on Today’s Wisconsin Supreme Court Opinions

“Since the historic events of 2011, I have been dedicated to defending Act 10 and Wisconsin’s Voter ID law. Today, the Supreme Court has completely upheld these laws. The decisions settle important state policy and serve to strengthen our constitutional democracy. I applaud the hard work and diligence of our attorneys and staff who also did their duty.”


Senate Democratic Leader Chris Larson on Equality Court Ruling


“Everyone should have the opportunity to live their lives freely and happily, and a cornerstone of this basic right is that everyone should be afforded equal protections under our laws.


“This fundamental tenet was reinforced by Judge Crabb’s historic ruling in June against Wisconsin’s unconstitutional and discriminatory marriage equality ban.


“I’m happy the court sided with our basic rights, freedoms, and opportunities on this case today.  Similarly, it’s time for Wisconsin Republicans to stop wasting our money on defending policies that promote inequality, foster discrimination, and unconstitutionally limit the rights and freedoms of our fellow Wisconsinites.”


Statement from League of Women Voters of Wisconsin


“We are disappointed that a majority of Wisconsin Supreme Court justices did not agree with the League of Women Voters or the growing numbers of federal judges who have recently found that strict voter ID laws are more likely to prevent thousands of qualified citizens from voting than to deter the extremely small number of potential illegal votes.


In a sharply worded dissent, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote: ‘Today the court follows no James Madison--for whom Wisconsin's capital city is named--but rather Jim Crow...’


“The Wisconsin League of Women Voters is proud to have won an early injunction in our challenge to the voter ID law, helping ensure that no eligible voter was disenfranchised by the law through seven elections, including the 2012 Presidential election. 


“The League stresses that the voter ID law is still blocked by a federal court injunction. Federal Judge Lynn Adelman got it right when he wrote that there is no evidence of in-person voter impersonation having occurred in Wisconsin, and a person would have to be “insane” to attempt it. Yet an estimated 300,000 currently registered Wisconsin citizens do not possess one of the short list of acceptable IDs allowed by the Wisconsin voter ID law.


“We thank everyone who supported our lawsuit financially and through volunteer advocacy. With your support the League will continue to work to ensure that our elections are free, fair and accessible to all eligible Wisconsin voters. Thank you for helping to make democracy work in Wisconsin!”


Lambda Legal on behalf of Fair Wisconsin on Domestic Partnership Registry Decision


“We’re thrilled that Wisconsin same-sex couples can keep the limited but very important protections that the domestic partnership registry grants them,” said Christopher Clark, counsel for Lambda Legal. “The statute is clearly constitutional, and the Supreme Court of Wisconsin agreed with us. Gay and lesbian couples in Wisconsin no longer have to fear that the protections they have will be taken away by unnecessary anti-gay legal action.


“We also look forward to the day – fast approaching – when Wisconsin will join its neighbors to the south and west and the growing number of states across the country where same-sex couples have the freedom to marry, rendering limited domestic partnership registry unnecessary.  Wisconsin same-sex couples are entitled to the full range of legal protections that only marriage provides,” Clark added.


“The Wisconsin State Legislature created the domestic partnership registry in accordance with the laws of the state, and we’re glad that we can finally move on from this long and unnecessary battle. We’re happy for the thousands of same-sex couples in Wisconsin that need the domestic partnership registry to protect themselves and their families.” said Katie Belanger, President and CEO of Fair Wisconsin. “Wisconsin’s gay and lesbian couples can now rest a little easier, and we’re thankful for that. We must now continue to focus our attention on securing the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Wisconsin.”


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