06 26 2016
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Protester with sign You Can't buy Democracy

This Oct. 8, 2013 file photo shows Cornell Woolridge of Windsor Mill, Md., takes part in a demonstration outside the Supreme Court in Washington as the court heard arguments on campaign finance. The Supreme Court struck down limits Wednesday in federal law on the overall campaign contributions the biggest individual donors may make to candidates, political parties and political action committees. The justices said in a 5-4 vote that Americans have a right to give the legal maximum to candidates for Congress and president, as well as to parties and PACs, without worrying that they will violate the law when they bump up against a limit on all contributions, set at $123,200 for 2013 and 2014. That includes a separate $48,600 cap on contributions to candidates. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A federal judge struck down Wisconsin's voter identification law Tuesday, declaring that a requirement that voters show a state-issued photo ID at the polls imposes an unfair burden on poor and minority voters.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman sided with opponents of the law, who argued that low-income and minorityvoters aren't as likely to have photo IDs or the documents needed to get them. Adelman said the law violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection. He also said the law appeared too flawed to fix with legislative amendments.
Adelman's decision invalidates Wisconsin's law and means voter ID likely won't be in place for the fall elections, when Republican Gov. Scott Walker faces re-election. While Walker committed last month to calling a special legislative session if the law were struck down in court, his spokeswoman wouldn't commit to that Tuesday.
"We believe the voter ID law is constitutional and will ultimately be upheld," Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said in an email. "We're reviewing the decision for any potential action."
The ruling could set a precedent for similar legal challenges in Texas, North Carolina and elsewhere. There are 31 states with laws in effect requiring voters to show some form of identification, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Seven states have strict photo ID requirements similar to the one a state judge struck down in Arkansas last week; that decision has been appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Pennsylvania's voter ID law has been put on hold because of court challenges.
Earlier this month, President Barack Obama waded into the voter ID debate, accusing Republicans of using restrictions to keep voters from the polls and jeopardizing 50 years of expanded voting access for millions of black Americans and other minorities.
A Dane County judge had already blocked Wisconsin's law in state court. The state Supreme Court heard arguments in two separate lawsuits in February, although it's not clear when the justices will issue a ruling. Forvoter ID to be reinstated, the state's high court would have to rule that it doesn't violate the state constitution, and Adelman's decision would have to be overturned on appeal.
Wisconsin's Department of Justice, which defended the state law in court, pledged to continue the fight.
"I am disappointed with the order and continue to believe Wisconsin's law is constitutional," Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said in a statement. "We will appeal."
Republican backers had argued that requiring voters to show ID would cut down on voter fraud and boost public confidence in the integrity of the election process. But Adelman, who was appointed to the bench in 1997 by President Bill Clinton, said the state failed to prove that voter fraud is a legitimate problem.
"(V)irtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin," he wrote in a 90-page opinion, "and it is exceedingly unlikely that voter impersonation will become a problem in Wisconsin in the foreseeable future."
Wisconsin's Republican-led Legislature passed the photo ID requirement in 2011, scoring a long-sought GOP priority. Former Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, had vetoed a similar requirement three times between 2002 and 2005.
Wisconsin's law was only in effect for a 2012 primary before a Dane County judge declared it unconstitutional.
Adelman pledged to expedite any proceedings should Wisconsin's Legislature attempt to amend the law, but he also had strong cautionary words for lawmakers.
"Given the evidence presented at trial showing that Blacks and Latinos are more likely than whites to lack anID, it is difficult to see how an amendment to the photo ID requirement could remove its disproportionate racial impact and discriminatory result," Adelman wrote.
Wisconsin residents can get a free state ID from a Department of Motor Vehicles by presenting documents such as a certified birth certificate, passport or Social Security card. Each document must be unexpired, and the person's name must be spelled identically on each document.
A number of witnesses testified the regulation was a problem, either because their names were misspelled on a key document or because they were born in rural areas during an era when birth certificates weren't always issued.
Adelman cited their testimony in his ruling, noting that they faced challenges that could deter them from voting.
"Although not every voter will face all of these obstacles, many voters will face some of them, particularly those who are low-income," the judge wrote.
The federal challenge combined two separate cases. One was brought by minority-rights groups, including the Wisconsin chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the other involved the American Civil Liberties Union and the Washington, D.C.-based Advancement Project.
ACLU spokesman Dale Ho said his group was "ecstatic" over the victory, and felt Adelman rendered a fair assessment of the evidence.
"We're pleased. We feel vindicated by the judge's decision," he said.

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  • ST. LOUIS (AP) — A draft of the Democratic Party's policy positions reflects the influence of Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign: endorsing steps to break up large Wall Street banks, advocating a $15 hourly wage, urging an end to the death penalty. Hillary Clinton's supporters turned back efforts by Sanders' allies to promote a Medicare-for-all single-payer health care system and a carbon tax to address climate change, and freeze hydraulic fracking. While the platform does not bind the Democratic nominee to the stated positions, it serves as a guidepost for the party moving forward. Party officials approved the draft early Saturday. The Democratic National Convention's full Platform Committee will discuss the draft at a meeting next month in Orlando, Florida, with a vote at the convention in Philadelphia in late July. Sanders said Friday he would vote for Clinton, the presumptive nominee, in the fall election, but so far has stopped short of fully endorsing the former secretary of state or encouraging his millions of voters to back her candidacy. The Vermont senator has said he wants the platform to reflect his goals — and those representing him at a St. Louis hotel said they had made progress. "We lost some but we won some," said James Zogby, a Sanders supporter on the committee. "We got some great stuff in the platform that has never been in there before." Added Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., a Sanders ally: "We've made some substantial moves forward." Deliberating late into Friday, the group considered language on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, an issue that has divided Democrats. The committee defeated an amendment led by Zogby that would have called for providing Palestinians with "an end to occupation and illegal settlements" and urged an international effort to rebuild Gaza. The draft reflects Clinton's views and advocates working toward a "two-state solution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict" that guarantees Israel's security with recognized borders "and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity." In many cases, Clinton's side gave ground to Sanders. The document calls for the expansion of Social Security and says Americans should earn at least $15 an hour, referring to the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour as a "starvation wage," a term often used by Sanders. Sanders has pushed for a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Clinton has supported efforts to raise the minimum wage to that level but has said states and cities should raise the bar as high as possible. Sanders' allies wanted the draft to specify calls for a $15 per hour minimum wage indexed with inflation. Clinton's side struck down a direct link, noting the document elsewhere included a call to "raise and index the minimum wage." The committee also adopted language that said it supports ways to prevent banks from gambling with taxpayers' bank deposits, "including an updated and modernized version of Glass-Steagall." Sanders wants to reinstate the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which prohibited commercial banks from engaging in investment banking activities. Clinton does not, but says her proposed financial changes would cast a wider net by regulating the banking system. Also in the draft is a call for the abolition of the death penalty. Clinton said during a debate this year that capital punishment should only be used in limited cases involving "heinous crimes." Sanders said the government should not use it. Sanders, a vociferous opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, was unable to get language into the document opposing the trade deal. As a result, the party avoided an awkward scenario that would have put the platform at odds with President Barack Obama. Clinton and Sanders have opposed the deal. Committee members backed a measure that said "there are a diversity of views in the party" on the pact and reaffirmed that Democrats contend any trade deal "must protect workers and the environment." In a setback for Sanders, the panel narrowly rejected amendments that would have imposed a tax on carbon and imposed a national freeze on fracking. The panel deliberated for about nine hours following several late nights and long hours of policy exchanges between the two campaigns and the Democratic National Committee. Sanders, in a statement, said he was "disappointed and dismayed" that the group voted down the measure opposing the TPP. But he was pleased with the proposals on Glass-Steagall and the death penalty — and vowed to fight on. "Our job is to pass the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party," he said.
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