More than a year after hearing arguments, a federal appeals court has yet to rule on a host of Wisconsin voting laws, including aspects of the state’s voter ID statute. The long delay has left some scratching their heads and raised questions about whether the court will act before this year’s elections, including the fast-approaching Aug. 14 primary. “It is rare but not unprecedented for a case to take this long,” said Joshua Douglas, a University of Kentucky College of Law professor. “I do think it’s very weird and I’m very surprised it has taken this long.” What’s at issue has only grown more complicated. In one recent development, the state sued a voting rights group to try to prevent it from contacting voters who have had difficulty getting free state IDs. Litigation over the voter ID law has been going on since shortly after the measure was approved seven years ago. The law has largely been upheld, but courts have modified parts of it to make it easier for people who don’t have birth certificates to get free IDs.
The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago heard arguments on the issue in a pair of cases in February 2017. One case deals with just the voter ID law; the other deals with multiple election issues, including voter ID and early voting rules.
The appeals court has handled voter ID issues quickly in the past. In 2014, a panel of three 7th Circuit judges reversed a lower court and reinstated the voter ID law just hours after hearing arguments.
But in the latest matter, the court has gone 16 months since hearing arguments without issuing any orders. The panel includes two judges — Frank Easterbrook and Diane Sykes — who participated in the quick 2014 ruling.