A federal judge has scheduled a hearing for next week to consider a motion by voter ID opponents to block the law ahead of the Nov. 8 election. Western District Court Judge James Peterson will also use the hearing to discuss a state investigation into recordings that allegedly show eligible voters being turned away from getting IDs. “The parties should be prepared to discuss whether any of the relief requested by plaintiffs is necessary or appropriate,” Peterson wrote. The audio recordings were made public by a group called VoteRiders. In a sworn declaration to the court, the group’s Molly McGrath said they feature Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicle employees giving people incorrect advice about what to do if they lack IDs. For example, one of the recordings features a man being denied an ID and directed away from a petition process for people who can’t easily get identification.
Peterson ordered the Wisconsin Department of Justice to investigate the recordings after he read about them in news accounts. The results of the DOJ’s investigation are due Friday.
Attorneys for the liberal One Wisconsin Institute, the group leading the lawsuit, have seized on the recordings as further proof that the voter ID law is flawed. “This evidence makes clear that the State does not have — and is incapable of implementing — a functioning safety net for its strict voter ID law,” they wrote in their motion asking Peterson to block voter ID.
But Peterson upheld Wisconsin’s voter ID law in an earlier court decision this summer, and court watchers suggest he probably won’t reverse course now. “I think that’s unlikely,” said Steven Wright, a clinical instructor at University of Wisconsin Law School who previously served as a trial attorney in the Voting Section of the United States Department of Justice.