An appeals court on Wednesday put on hold an earlier ruling that residents without a photo ID could still vote if they attested to their identity in an affidavit, striking a blow to activists concerned that many in Wisconsin will be blocked from voting. Advocates for voting rights have had recent legal victories with rulings against voting-restriction legislation in North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin. A federal ruling last month said Wisconsin residents who had trouble obtaining the necessary identification would still be able to vote with an affidavit. But the appeals court on Wednesday said that state lawyers challenging that ruling were likely to be successful. Wisconsin has battled for years over its voter-ID law, and the latest bout of legal wrangling has left the situation decidedly unclear for voters in November. In a separate case, a district court judge declared unconstitutional several of Wisconsin’s voting rules and ordered reforms to the process by which voters can obtain IDs from the Division of Motor Vehicles. That decision also is being appealed.
Given the back-and-forth, experts say there remains concern about how much information will trickle down to voters and election administrators. Wisconsin recently made $250,000 available for a public information campaign, although it remains unclear what voters will be told about the rules. “We know there will be confusion,” said Rick Hasen, a University of California at Irvine professor who specializes in election law.
Dale Ho, director of the Voting Rights Project for the American Civil Liberties Union, said as many as 300,000 registered voters in Wisconsin lack acceptable photo ID, although he acknowledged that not all of them would vote and that some could obtain documentation without much trouble. The ACLU had sued over the law.
As to whether requiring ID could tip the election in favor of the Republicans who support the law, Ho said: “Obviously, the people behind these laws think it can help them. Whether or not it can, from our perspective, it really doesn’t matter. We’re just trying to make sure everyone can vote.”