Tuesday, May 13, 2014


By Dominique Paul Noth

The things you discover in Google search! I had never realized that an article I had written as editor of Milwaukee Labor Press was used by the winning side in that sizeable US Eastern District Court decision striking down that bizarre Wisconsin Voter ID law.

Judge Lynn Adelman
It happened April 29 when, combining complaints into a single trial and decision,  US Judge Lynn Adelman forcefully struck down Wisconsin’s Voter ID law as unconstitutional denial of minority voting rights, among other errors. 

It was a decision so sweeping and imposing judicial review that no legislative remedy is available to Gov. Scott Walker who wanted the limitations in place before the November election.  His extremist supporters may fume and rail, as Assembly majority leader Robin Vos assuredly did, but wiser GOP heads actually read the ruling. They seem to be quietly backing off for now.

Of course I am exaggerating the importance of my story’s presence in the trial exhibits. One set of plaintiffs on the winning side submitted 808 academic and journalistic citations, emails, videos and opinions (mine was 187 on their list). If Adelman worked his way through  all those exhibits in the case that started many court hearings earlier as “League of United Latin American Citizens, et al” he may have come across it.  Who knows?

But I do know his reputation as a thorough judge with a humanistic bent (which infrequently had led to reversals on appeal but seldom with basic constitutional issues).  No one has ever claimed he is not scrupulous in gathering research and testimony that directly bears on an issue. That, and the failure to mention the high regard he is held in by the legal community, nor  how he was blocked by the GOP in the US  senate when nominated to join the appeals court, were among the errors in the recent JS side by side comparison of him with fellow US Judge Rudolph Randa.

Yet frankly, I didn’t remember directly writing  on this ridiculous voter ID law, unless someone was reading my mind.   So when a friend sent me the trial’s list of exhibits and I was up there, that launched some  surprise and memory lane research.

What, I wondered, had I written about to provide evidence for the winning side? I know the right wing likes to beat me up as a flaming leftist, while I think of myself as solidly left – like most of America, I suspect, when they vote. I do understand how partisan our politics have become and how a concern about factual elements can now be used as examples of extremism by RightWisconsin and company. But what had I written?

Since I served as editor the Milwaukee Labor Press for a decade, and that article was from that era, I know the drill. Most of those stories dealt with mundane statistics and meetings, and debates within the labor community over things like highways vs trains, mining vs environment, minority hiring vs nepotism. Yet political hired guns on the right see my union credentials and automatically dismiss any conclusions. So  what had I said that they could beat up?

Turns out the winning side in the voter ID case had turned to a deep analysis I did in early 2012 exploring the US Census of 2010 and the enormous growth of the Latino population in Wisconsin.  The story is still online

My 2012 story emphasized the importance of the Latino vote by
picturing US Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin (she won) with Latino
activist Jesus Salas and  Rep. JoCasta Zamarippa.
It reflected that the Latino citizen population was growing immensely, would probably not erupt for years, but both parties had better look out when it did erupt. It made some observations but the article was heavily based on data.

I didn’t like to think that a factual study of US Census data, with my particular brand of commentary, would outrage the right, but sure enough it had (my Google search revealed).

The story detailed quite factually the growth of Latino voting power in Wisconsin and suggested that Wisconsin was slowly looking more like Milwaukee, now a minority-majority city with 39% African Americans and 17% Hispanics.  How that figures into voter ID becomes obvious, certainly to any public official who can do simple math and  look around the corner. These Hispanics voters,  both born here and legalized,  often work or live in circumstances that do not require driver licenses in the same proportions as white suburbanites, which tilts those photo ID simplistics.  They survive poverty circumstances in many cases. They may share homes or have relatives who are undocumented, instilling an extra caution about intrusive  GOP sponsored investigations of honest citizens,  using nonexistent voter fraud as a legislative excuse to play politics and instill fear. 

The May Day march of 2011 underscored a growing young
Hispanic population willing to demonstrate for immigration
Apparently there was one  comment in my story that agitated the right and may have attracted the plaintiffs:

“You can already hear that particularly bigoted breed of Charlie Sykes and CRG conservatives scoff that all this (growth)  has to be the ‘illegals’ taking those valuable jobs of cleaning out cesspools or picking corn that whites born here must surely be clamoring for.

“But the statistical breakdowns reflect a quite different reality – the variety and vitality of Latinos in this state. What the census analysts describe as those with ‘Hispanic roots,’ society now recognizes as leaders in entrepreneurship, culture expansion and community building -- business owners, plant workers, housewives, production experts, legalized here or born here. Many in Milwaukee are indeed our poorer citizens, in a city that suffers staggering rates of unemployment for minorities. But simultaneously they are filling schools and churches and gaining clout. A great number of their children born in this county have now reached voting age.” 

It was a 2012 recognition that has grown in validity, reflecting a hot reality in the 2014 voter photo ID decision.

No wonder Walker wanted  voter ID in place before the November election  to cripple nature and normal expansion  --  and make it difficult for his social and intellectual opponents to vote him out.  

Frankly, my story was an infinitesimal part of the case.  I sure wish  I had access to the depth and breadth of examples of social and employment discrimination facing minorities that Adelman had.  Note how he not only drew the right conclusions but pushed  a strong dose of sanity toward those overwrought  Walker proponents:

“Given the evidence presented at trial showing that Blacks and Latinos are more likely than
whites to lack an ID, it is difficult to see how an amendment to the photo ID requirement
could remove its disproportionate racial impact and discriminatory result,” he said, asserting that there would be instant hearings before him if the legislature attempted any such abusive amendment.

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as editor for its famous entertainment Green Sheet, then for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran  Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he  became the newspaper’s  arts editor and then its senior feature editor. In the 1990s he was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news.

From 2002 to 2013 he ran as editor the Milwaukee Labor Press, the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, and helped create its still operative milwaukeelabor.org portal.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for Urban Milwaukee.

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