Schimel’s Southern Strategy on Voter Rights
His “states rights” argument echoes segregationists like George Wallace, gets rejected.
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel dusted off an old and discredited “states’ rights” argument in his most recent court filing in the One Wisconsin Institute voting case.
Schimel’s most outrageous argument was an echo of an old George Wallace and Lester Maddox line that the state’s elected officials should hold sway over the authority of the judicial branch.
“Absent a stay, Wisconsin will be forced to conduct the next election under an election code that a district court rewrote, in violation of Wisconsinites’ right to govern themselves,” Schimel wrote.
Surely, Schimel knows that a federal judge has the authority to find state laws unconstitutional. And whenever a judge does that, the judge can be labeled by some demagogue as interfering with the work of state officials, or, as Schimel put it in this instance, “Wisconsinites’ right to govern themselves.”
But that right is not unconditional. Wisconsinites, or more precisely, their elected officials, do not have the right to violate the Bill of Rights or other elements of the Constitution. They can’t establish a state religion or ban freedom of the press, for instance. One of the reasons we have federal judges, after all, is to determine whether elected officials are overstepping their bounds.
Schimel disgraced his office by putting forward such a shabby argument.
Late on Monday, August 22, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago decided not to stay Judge Peterson’s decision, thus handing Schimel a defeat.