Wisconsin Voter ID Law Unlikely to Apply in November

  • September 28, 2012
  • By Jim Malewitz

Wisconsinites this November won't likely need to show photo identification at the polls. That's because the state Supreme Court says it won't immediately consider whether to reinstate a voter ID law blocked in a lower court.

With hopes of enforcing the law for Election Day, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen had asked Wisconsin's high court to swiftly take up a challenge to two trial court rulings on the 2011 law championed by Governor Scott Walker, one of many GOP-led efforts to tighten voter eligibility requirements in states across the country.

The court denied that request on Thursday (September 27) because several appeal briefs had yet to be filed in a case brought by the NAACP. The decision was cheered by critics of the law who argued its provisions would disenfranchise poor, elderly and minority voters, who are less likely to have photo identification and more likely to vote Democratic.

"It's a terrific victory for voter rights because it means almost certainly this disenfranchising law will not be in effect for the November election," Rich Saks, an attorney for two groups that challenged the law, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

In a statement released Thursday, Van Hollen said he was “disappointed” in the decision and its implications for the coming election.

“Despite this setback, I continue to believe that the Voter ID law is constitutional and I will continue the battle to have the law upheld.”

In March, Dane County judges ruled against the law in two separate challenges. In one of those decisions, Judge Richard Niess said the voter ID law “goes beyond mere regulation of elections,” and its provisions “impermissibly eliminate the right of suffrage altogether for certain Constitutionally qualified electors.”

“The defendants' argument that the fundamental right to vote must yield to legislative fiat turns our constitutional scheme of democratic government squarely on its head,” Niess wrote.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court decision comes as challenges to voting restrictions are winding through the courts in several other states.

This week, a Nashville judge ruled Tennessee's particularly strict voter ID law constitutional, as the Associated Press reported. And in New Hampshire, a judge struck down a law barring students from other states studying in New Hampshire from voting.

Meanwhile, decisions are expected soon on high-profile challenges to voter ID laws in Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

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