By Matthew Rothschild on March 12, 2012

For the second time in two weeks, a Wisconsin judge has ruled against the highly restrictive voter ID law that Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican legislature rammed through in 2011.

Last week, Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan granted a temporary injunction against the law.

And on Monday, another Dane County circuit judge, Richard Niess, in a scathing opinion, issued a permanent injunction.

“The legislature and governor have exceeded their constitutional authority,” he wrote. The “photo ID requirements are unconstitutional because they abridge the right to vote. Regulation may not deny the right of suffrage, either directly or indirectly. This has been the law of Wisconsin since its birth.”

Citing the Wisconsin state constitution and several state supreme court rulings flowing from it, Niess declared the voter ID law, Act 23, unconstitutional and enjoined the Walker administration “from any further implementation or enforcement” of it.

He noted that the law would have a discriminatory result on several disadvantaged groups of voters. “Mostly they would consist of those struggling souls who, unlike the vast majority of Wisconsin voters, for whatever reason will lack the financial, physical, mental, or emotional resources to comply with Act 23, but are otherwise constitutionally entitled to vote,” he wrote. “The right to vote belongs to all Wisconsin citizens who are qualified electors, not just the fortunate majority for whom Act 23 poses little obstacle at the polls.”

Judge Niess acknowledged that the government could take action to prevent voter fraud. But, he said, “Voter fraud is no more poisonous to our democracy than voter suppression. Indeed, they are two heads on the same monster.”

And he had a stark warning for our democracy if such voter ID laws are allowed to stand.

“A government that undermines the very foundation of its existence—the people’s inherent, pre-constitutional right to vote—imperils its legitimacy as a government by the people, for the people, and especially of the people. It sows the seeds for its own demise as a democratic institution.”

The case was brought by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network, which said it was “delighted” by the “strong ruling.”

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Don’t Lower the Corporate Tax Rate."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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