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Arnold & Porter Wins Another State Voting Rights Case as Wisconsin Law Is Struck Down

May 2, 2014

Wisconsin, April 30, 2014 -- Arnold & Porter LLP attorneys scored another major victory for minority voting rights this week, as a federal judge in Milwaukee found that a 2011 law that requires Wisconsin voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and cannot be enforced.  In a 90-page opinion, Judge Lynn Adelman found that Wisconsin’s voter ID law unfairly discriminates against Black and Latino voters, who lack photo identification and the documents needed to obtain it far more often than white voters do, and therefore would be disproportionately prevented from voting by the law. 

The decision represents the first time that a state voter ID law has been found to violate Section 2, after several previous unsuccessful attempts.  It was also the first Voting Rights Act case to go to trial after the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which sharply limited the reach of the statute. 

“This decision confirms that the Voting Rights Act still has teeth,” said John Ulin, who led the Arnold & Porter trial team along with partner Chuck Curtis and counsel Carl Nadler.  “Elected officials simply cannot protect their interests by enacting laws that prevent Blacks and Latinos from voting.  We have come too far in this country to fight the battle for minority voting rights a second time.”   

Mr. Curtis added, “our team owes a lot to witnesses like Bettye Jones and Lorene Hutchins, who refused to be silent when the State of Wisconsin told them that, after decades of voting and political activity dating back to the 1940s, they would not be permitted to vote in 2012 because they did not possess current Wisconsin photo identification.  Neither Mrs. Jones nor Mrs. Hutchins lived to see this day, but their voices have been heard.  This victory truly belongs to them.” 

Arnold & Porter tried the case jointly with attorneys from the Advancement Project in Washington, D.C., whose trial team was led by Jim Eichner.

Earlier this year, another team of Arnold & Porter attorneys working jointly with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and the Advancement Project, obtained a permanent injunction against the enforcement of Pennsylvania’s controversial photo identification law because it violated the state’s constitution by threatening to disenfranchise thousands of voters there.  The Pennsylvania trial court entered the final judgment the day before the Wisconsin decision, rejecting all of Pennsylvania’s arguments to reverse the original decision.  The firm’s legal team during the trial on the permanent injunction before the trial court was headed by Michael Rubin, while David Gersch successfully argued the matter at the appellate level previously and will lead any appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  For further details see Arnold & Porter Wins State Voting Rights Case, Pa Voter ID Law Struck Down.

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