After the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on voting rights, Wisconsin activists are waiting to see how the decision could affect ongoing legal disputes on voter ID laws in the state. In its June 25 decision in the Shelby County v. Holder case, the Supreme Court redacted Section IV regarding the federal oversight of states with historic issues with voting rights and disenfranchisement of voters, of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in a 5-4 decision. While this decision is monumental for the mostly southern states subject to federal approval to change voter laws, Wisconsin is waiting to see the effect it will have on its own voter ID law. Wisconsin’s voter ID law, which requires voters to have specific photo identification to vote, was ruled constitutional by the 4th District Court of Appeals on May 30, despite a challenge by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin that it violated the state Constitution. “In sum, the League has presented no basis to conclude that it has met its heavy burden in this facial constitutional challenge,” according to the court’s opinion.
In a related case stemming from a challenge to the Indiana voter ID law, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board upheld a state’s right to require voter identification as long as it is not an “undue burden” upon the voters.
In the majority opinion, Supreme Court Justice John Stevens wrote, “Gathering required documents and posing for a photograph does not qualify as a substantial burden on most voters’ right to vote, or represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting.”
Donald Downs, a UW political science and advisor to the Herald, said the Wisconsin law is similar to the Indiana law, which increases its chances of being upheld.
“The Wisconsin case has more evidence of inconvenience to specific voters than Indiana,” Downs said.